Thamil folk theatre comes alive again
An enthralled audience of mainly Sinhala and Thamil theatre people sat spellbound in silence for nearly 90 minutes witnessing a Thamil folk play peculiar to the people in the Maddakkalappu region in the Vadamodi mode.
The title of the play is, Ravanesan - written, choreographed and directed by Emeritus Professor S. Maunaguru. The enraptured silence and the standing ovation by everybody in the audience was for the overall presentation neat and professional and accentuated by the final scene of a vigorous rhythm arising from percussion instruments, singing with a blend of folk tunes characteristic of Naaddu Koothu with light carnatic ragas and quick movements of the action concerned by the protagonist sand the antagonist Ravana Versus Rama.
Regular thetregoers would have remembered Ediriweera Sarahchandra’s Maname and Sinhabahu which were greatly inspired by the Naaddu Koothu of the Lankan Thamilians. Also who are accustomed to the Greek plays would have seen the similarity in the Greek and Thamil Folk theatre as far as the role of the Chorus in the play.
The content of the play in the Koothu tradition is adapted from Kamban’s Ramayana in Thamil and its shows specifically the encounter between Ravana and Rama each justifying their Dharma in their own terms. Ravana’s wife Mandothai tries her best to dissuade her husband not to release the imprisoned Seetha, wife of Rama and avoid the war, but the hero in Ravana wouldn’t listen as he has a genuine hubris especially when Rama would not kill Ravana when the latter was fatigued in the tussle fighting and asking him to come the following day to fight again. Mandothari says at several time it is the women and children who suffer in war when men goes for war.
I particularly liked the performance of Suyananthi as Another in her voce modulation, clarity in enunciation, nice voice, delicate movements and expressions that connect with the audience. Thavarasa as Andradite, son of Ravana was electrifying with his movements and dance.
Thayaparan and Vivekanada Raja as Rama and Lakshmanan were also doing their parts well. Almost all the players did a splendid job in presenting their parts. Dilakshana as the charioteer of Ravana was splendid I thought in her expression and movements to suit the scene. Jeyashankar played his role very well in way to show that Ravana as a person was also a man of total personality despite his lust for Seetha. But he never touched her and only to her in captivity as a revenge to take for Laksmnan cutting the nose of his sister Soorpanakai and disfiguring her face.
A scene from Ravanesan
It was a restrained d performance without any over playing. He too danced well and his voice production could have been a little better. The singers were marvelous and refrains helped the audience to understand what the players were saying and singing. The costume and properties of the play were handsomely executed by Vasuki Jeyashankar. Vimalraj was the assistant director to Maunaguru.
The pamphlets issued to the audience in all three languages explained enough information of the stagecraft of the play and the significance of this play in Lankan Thamil theatre veteran artiste Dharmasiri Banadaranaike and Prof. S. Maunaguru have written little notes in the pamphlet. The play was produced or rather revived as a respect in memory of a Lankan intellectual, the late Neelan Tiruchelvam.
Musings on Ravanesan
In the 1960’s the late Prof Vithiyananthan inspired by the creative work of the late Prof E. R. Sarachandra in the Sinhala theatre took Vadamody and Then mody kooththu styles of Batticaloa for his kooththu revival and modified it to fit in to the picture frame stage for modern audience. Students of Peradeniya University took part in this modification process of the late Prof Vithiyananthan in the 1960s and Prof S. Maunaguru who was at that time an undergraduate of the same university, not only play the Ravanan role but also composed the script with the guidance of the late Prof Vithiyananthan and K. Sivathamy.
After 40 years Maunaguru has been producing Ravanesan in a different style.
Prof Maunaguru’s Ravanesan is totally an innovation in every aspect of the theatre. It is an excellent artistic creation.
It’s acting, stage props, costumes and music are excellent. The original use of screens used without a break throughout the play should be regarded as a very creative development in modern stage craft.
Dharmasiri Bandaranaike, Director, Tricome Cultural Foundation, Colombo
Vadamody Kooththu is an old traditional theatre among the theatrical forms of Eastern Sri Lanka. This narrative theatre composed with music and dance has been traditionally performed in the villages all throughout the night in the vaddakkalari (round stage).
In this production of Ravanesan the potential theatrical element of the rich kooththu tradition have been exploited to create a new influential theatre.
No longer relegated to simple revival of a traditional form, but also the extension and innovation from within that tradition, evolving into new forms.
We are the buds of a long rich dramatical tradition of Sri Lankan Tamils.
The great artists who protect this tradition and Prof Vithiyananthan have been remembered here with lot of respects.
Courtesy: Imprint, Artsscope, Daily News(24.02.2010)