Mathileri Kanni (BH: D291)

May 22, 2012

"Mathileri Kanni" was advertised as the big budget Kerala martial arts folk lore based theater extravaganza. The advertisement clearly worked. VJT Hall was standing room only by 6:15. Unmistakable smell of Indian Made Foreign Liquor in the air. Fairly large number of gentlemen had shown up after work, tipsy, to enjoy the play amount the warrior princess.

Half the tipsiness must have disappeared with the prelude that opened out of all unexpected places, in the reception area of a 'self-financing' engineering college in Tamil Nadu. The curtain opened after a tirade about such colleges ruining students and families with their exorbitant fees and corrupt management.

To convince the audience of the arrogant, rich, spoiled kids who come to study at such institutions, a rape was simulated on stage with actions that could easily pass for Telugu cinema choreography. Then there was the reference to the gang rape of a first year student. A cover up follows. Her 'high society' mom cannot sympathize with her. Her dad over sympathizes. She jumps off the building and kills herself.

I sit stunned through the relentless overacting on stage. The play looked precisely like those mock plays shown in movies to make fun of the theater scene in Kerala. It was really bad. The script was full of pompous, flowery language and abrupt jarring emotion changes.

Post prelude, we are lectured that young women of the state must be taught martial arts so that they can defend themselves from the ruthless, shameless society. 'Parassini Kadavu Muthappan' and ' Thee Pottan', two divine art forms, appear on stage to introduce Kanni. The whole point of the drama seems to be to establish a role model for women in Mathileri Kanni, the ruler of the fiefdom of Chirackal.

The folk lore bit of the play opens in a forest where a low caste "Mannathi" is getting ready for another human sacrifices. More references to rape. Couple of young men bring a high caste lady who they have abducted. Just as she is about to be sacrificed, Mathileri Kanni and her childhood friend come to the rescue, in disguise.

From then on the play moved onto to new unforeseen levels of unbearable. By the time the romance between Kanni and the king of Venad kicked in through a song, I left. Admittedly, there were a couple of clever stage production tricks like real water drawn from a well and flame throwing. Songs were good. But overall, this Kanni would have been as sharp as the swords wielded if half of the words from the script were chopped off!

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