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Story within a tale

MANU REMAKANT

G. Sankara Pillai’s ‘Nizhal’ was staged to mark the birth anniversary celebration of the theatre doyen.



RACONTEUR: The sage tells the children his story from the days of Brahmadatha, King of Kasi.

The birth anniversary celebration of theatre doyen G. Sankara Pillai brought back memories of the great dramatist and his contribution and that of his disciple the late Kochunarayana Pillai, founder president of the children’s theatre group. Staying true to the spirit of the theatre, formed in 1970, the play ‘Nizhal,’ scripted by G. Sankara Pillai, had children playing the characters.

Tales from yore

The 35-minute play tells us a story within a story. The curtain goes up to show an old woman in a corner with a brood of children around her. As their friends join them, they nag the ‘muthassi’ to tell them a story.

A sage steps into the scene and agrees to tell the children his story from the days of Brahmadatha, King of Kasi.

The sage narrates an incident that took place in the royal court of Brahmadatha. The queen has lost her necklace. Finally, soldiers spot the necklace at the bottom of a garden pond.

They empty the pond to retrieve the necklace but find that the necklace has vanished.

The furious king orders the pond to be re-filled. To his surprise he too sees the necklace lying deep in the pond.

Dumbfounded, the king seeks the help of a sage who is in deep meditation in the garden. The sage is the same person narrating the story to the children

“Men are blind,” he says, “they go after shadows and reflections forgetting the real treasures of life.”

The sage tells the king that the necklace they see is a reflection of the ornament that is hanging high on a bough above the pond.

The message behind the story is easy enough for a child to understand as the sage points out that people see what is just before their eyes, forgetting what is beyond. The dance and song sequences blend into the story with ease, particularly in the scene that shows the pond being refilled.

The children used the properties convincingly, evoking the visual of water flowing into the empty pond. The children’s theatrics were excellent.

The two soldiers, played by Anu Samban and Anand, charmed the audience with their comic routine. Harish as the sage and Keerthi Krishna as the muthassi also performed well.

Thirty-six children donned various roles in the play.

Even the occasional faux pas by the children and a few affected dialogues evoked only smiles among the viewers as they watched the children acting out their roles with verve. Anil Kumar, who directed the play and trained the children during a two-week camp, says: “It was challenging, but the thrill in polishing the talents in children has always been a motivating factor.”

The play was staged at Rangaprabhath, Venjaramoodu, Thiruvananthapuram.

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