Kothamoori (BH:D 290)

May 22, 2012

Adoor Bhasi memorial professional drama competition at VJT Hall. The fifth out of eight plays competing: Kothamoori by Valluvanadu Brahma Theaters. Kothamoori is a rustic corruption Godavari, the celestial cow that came to feed Krishna. Hero of the play named Kotha. The story is about his relationship with the bull(moori) called Manickyan. Kothamoori is also the name of a rare ancient folk art form in north Kerala.

Packed auditorium. Play began 5 minutes ahead of schedule!! Excellent rerecording and sound design. Perfect lighting. Out of the world set design. Some of the best art I have ever seen on stage. 3 part division of the stage. Clever use of the farthest portion that is visible through a screen to enhance entries and exits.

The prelude itself was half hour long. The tale of bull fighting contest between two villages. The winner takes the produce and cows of the loser for 5 years. Godavari village has been on a losing streak. Tamilian village has been winning. Unmistakable shades of Oommen Chandy and Jaya Lalitha in the village chieftains. Once again the bull train cheats to help Tamilian village wins. Hero is introduced as a resisting rebel in the starving, famine-struck village. Unfortunately the actor (who is also the producer) is a 250 pound big belly. Major disconnect with the starvation story line.

The big man has a baby face. He is a decent actor but the fat coupled with his topless costuming distracts big time. All attempts to work his belly and manboobs into the script for comic effect don't make headway. The story twists and turns through up and downs till it plunges into a series of tragedies. If the opening sequence reminded everyone of Priyadarshan's "Thenmavin Kombathu" (Saath Rang Ke Sapne in Hindi) the talking bull seemed like an avatar of St. Francis from "Pranchiyettan and the Saint"

The inconsistency in scripting and acting was saved big time by the phenomenal production value. The villain characters excelled. The only song in the play, a romantic one, was beautifully done by lighting the stage in gray scale to reflect the color blindness of the bull. It was a big surprise that the correct colorblindness was referred to in the play when routinely Indian movies use the myth of the bull and red color to create violent climaxes.

Few sparkling directorial touches. The vile bull trainer's bull like reactions upon seeing the woman given to him as bribe, the inhuman throwing of a spittoon's contents into a pleading old man's face, the crowd creation and management in several scenes are worth mentioning. Above all, the bull. Realistically made and well controlled, it added an indispensable element to the play. Had the bull also been as shoddily built as the hero, the play would have fallen apart easily.

All the tragedy doesn't work towards a solid ending. The message in the end doesn't sit well with the rest of the play especially the suggestion that rule under women might be better. The play had either very weak or rather wicked female characters who won't make good leaders at all. Great touch bringing the fire carrying 'Kothamoori' theyyam onstage for the finale.

Bottomline: Professional theater in Kerala is way ahead as an art form compared to cinema.. Looking forward to the big budget martial arts folk tale extravaganza "Mathileri Kanni" tonight!

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