படமும் பாடமும்

March 23, 2017 § Leave a comment


அது சின்ன தோப்புதான்.பார்ப்பதற்கு ரம்மியமாக இருந்தது. நாகலிங்கம், பள்ளிக்கூடம் முடிந்தவுடன் அங்குப் போய் நண்பர்களுடன் விளையாடுவது வழக்கம்.

அன்று அவன் அங்குப் போனபோது யாரும் வந்திருக்கவில்லை.

தோப்புக்கு அருகே ஒரு சின்ன குளம். அங்கு ஆண்டு முழுவதும் தண்ணீர் இருந்தது என்பதுதான் ஆச்சர்யம். நாகலிங்கம், கால்களை கழுவிக் கொள்ள அந்தக் குளத்தருகே சென்றான்.

அவன் திடுக்கிட்டு நின்றான். ஒரு நல்ல பாம்பு படம் பிடித்து ஆடாமல் அசையாமல் குளத்தருகே நின்றது..பாம்பைக் கண்ட பயத்தைக் காட்டிலும், அதன் படத்தில் ஏதோ எழுதப்பட்டிருந்தது என்பதினால் ஏற்பட்ட வியப்புதான் அதிகமாக அவன் முகத்தில் தெரிந்தது. அது ஹிந்தி எழுத்து என்று அவனுக்குப் பட்டது, என்னவென்றுதான் அவனுக்குப் புரியவில்லை.

பாம்பைப் பார்த்தால் ஓடக்கூடாது என்று அவனுக்குத் தெரியும். அவனும் ஆடாமல்
அசையாமல் நின்றான்.

பாம்பு சிறிது நேரம் கழித்து ‘சர’ ‘சர’வென்று ஓடி மறைந்தது.

அடுத்த நாள் அவன் தன்னுடைய பள்ளிக்கூட ஆசிரியரை அழைத்துக் கொண்டு வந்தான். முதலில் அவன் சொன்னதை அவர் நம்பவில்லை.பிறகு அதை நேரில் பார்த்து விடுவதென்று முடிவு செய்து அவனுடன் வந்தார்.

பாம்பு அவர்களை ஏமாற்றவில்லை. அதே நேரத்தில், அதே இடத்தில் படம் பிடித்து நின்றது. ஆசிரியருக்கு ஹிந்தி தெரியும். படித்தார். ‘ராம்’.

அயோத்தியில் இருக்க வேண்டிய பாம்பு மதுரைப் பக்கத்தில் இந்தச் சிற்றூருக்கு எப்படி வந்தது என்று அவருக்குப் புரியவில்லை. ஒரு வேளை, ராமன் ராமேஸ்வரம் போகும் போது,இந்த ஊருக்கு வந்து இந்தக் குளத்தில் குளித்திருக்கலாம். அதனால்தான், இந்தக் குளத்தில் நீர் வற்றுவதேயில்லை! இன்னொரு சாத்தியமும் இருக்கிறது. இப்பொழுது தோப்பாக இருக்கும் இவ்விடத்தில் ஒரு கோயில் இருந்திருக்கக் கூடும். இந்தக் குளம் ஏன் ஒரு புஷ்கர்ணியாக இருந்திருக்க முடியாது?

ராமனை எப்பொழுதும் பிரியாமலிருந்தவன் லக்ஷ்மணன்.அவன் ஆதிசேஷன் அவதாரம். இந்தப் பாம்புதான் லக்ஷ்மணனோ? ஏன் ஹிந்தியில் ‘ராம்’ என்று எழுதப்பட்டிருக்கிறது என்பது இப்பொழுது புரிகிறது.

இது தேசிய முக்கியத்வம் வாய்ந்த செய்தி. தெய்வ நம்பிக்கையுடைய ஒரு தேசியக் கட்சித் தலைவர்களிடம் இந்தத் தகவலைச் சொன்னால் இதை எப்படி நாட்டு நலனுக்காகப் பயன்படுத்திக் கொள்வதென்று அவர்களுக்குத் தெரியும். ஆனால் அவர்கள் இதை நம்ப வேண்டுமே! நாளைக்கு ‘மொபைலில்’ படம் பிடித்து, தில்லிக்குப் போய் அவர்களிடம் காட்டலாம்..

“நாகு.. இதைப் பத்தி யாருக்கும் சொல்லாதே.. நாம நாளைக்கு டெல்லிக்குப் போவோம்.. இது ரொம்ப முக்கியமான சமாச்சாரம்.. உன்னோட அப்பாகிட்டே சொல்லி உன்னை நான் கூட்டிண்டு போறேன்..” என்றார் ஆசிரியர் நாகலிங்கத்திடம்.

அடுத்த நாள், அதே சமயத்தில், பாம்பு படம் எடுத்து அவர் படம் எடுக்கக் காத்திருப்பது போல் நின்றது. அவர் படம் எடுத்தார். தாமும் அக்கட்சித் தலவர்களில் ஒருவராக ஆகும் வாய்ப்பு நெருங்கிக் கொண்டிருக்கின்றது என்ற மகிழ்ச்சியில் அவர் மனம் நிறைந்திருந்தது.

தில்லியில் அவர் அக்கட்சித் தலைவர்களைச் சந்தித்தார். புகைப் படத்தைக் காண்பித்தார். இராமன் அந்த ஊர்க் கோயில் புஷ்கர்ணியில் நீராடியது பற்றிய ஒர் ஸ்தல புராணத்தை அவரே உருவாக்கி அது கர்ணப் பரம்பரைச் செய்தி என்றும் கூறினார்.

‘ராநாமத்தை’த் தன் படத்தில் தாங்கிய பாம்பு தேசியப் புகழ் பெற்றது. ஆசிரியர் எடுத்த படம் எல்லா தேசியத் தொலைக் காட்சி ‘சானல்’களிலும், பத்திரிகைகளிலும் பிரபலமாகியது.

ஒரு குறிப்பிட்ட நாளில் இந்தக் காட்சியைக் காண, தேசிய, சர்வ தேசிய பத்திரிகைக்காரர்களும், புகைப்படக் காரர்களும், அச்சிற்றூரை முற்றுகை இட்டனர்.

நாகலிங்கத்தின் படிப்புச் செலவு முழுவதையும் தாம் ஏற்றுக் கொள்வதாக பாரதப் பிரதமர் அறிவித்தார். ராம நாமம் தாங்கிய பாம்பின் தரிசனம் அவனுக்கன்றோ முதலில் கிட்டிற்று.!

மாலை அந்தக் குறிப்பிட்ட நேரத்தில், ஒரு ரஜினி படத்தில் அவர் ‘என்ட்ரி’ க்காக, முதல்நாள், முதல் ‘ஷோ’வில், அவருடைய ரஸிகர்கள் காத்திருப்பது போல், எல்லோரும்காத்துக் கொண்டிருந்தனர்.

பாம்பு வந்தது. படம் எடுத்தது. ஆனால், தேவநாகிரிக்குப் பதிலாக அரபி லிபி!

Shelter for the poor is God’s home!

March 22, 2017 § 1 Comment


The Supreme Court has spoken!
The Ayodhya problem is back to the situation of Ground Zero! The two parties are asked to hold discussions and arrive at a solution! This reminds me of the famous lines from’:Rubaiyat’ by OmarKhayyam.

‘Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint and had great Argument
About it and that evermor
Came out by the same Door as in I went!

This precisely sums up the present predicament. The problem went to the Supreme Court after so much of bloodshed and anarchy! The question is to whom the place doth belong. Rama or Alla?
The question being now related to Divinity how can there be a mundane answer?

In Tamil there is a saying that means, ‘wherever Rama is it becomes Ayodhya’ In fact, when the great Tamil poet Kamban describes ‘Ayodhya’ he has only the Chola capital, his own dwelling place in view the way he brings the city to our mind! When he talks of ‘Sarayu’ his mind is occupied with ‘Cauvery’ and the four kinds of geographical divisions immortalized by Sangam poetry! Each region in India has its own version of Ramayana and localization of ‘Ayodhya’, that the city could be anywhere in any part of this great country, wherever Ramayana is recited and heard!
When millions of our countrymen are homeless, what is the immediate need for us to find home for gods, whether it is Alla or Rama, who, in fact, are Omnipresent? if only we decide to build a huge shelter for those who are homeless in Ayodhya, it would be joint resting place for both divinities.

The Yogi and the commissar

March 21, 2017 § Leave a comment


Can a saint be a political administrator of the State? Interesting question it is. In the past, in India, the State and religion had functioned as one unit. Vasishta was not only the prohit but also was a political adviser to King Dasaratha. Only after his approval, Dasaratha decided to make Rama as the crown prince, although the Rajaguru knew very well of Dasaratha’s promise to Kaikei when he married her that her son would succeed him on the throne.

Yogi Adhityanath has the administrative skill of running a religious establishment like the Gorakpur mutt and an aggressive seasoned parliamentarian frequently spitting fire and brimstone against those professing a different religious point of view. What more you need for establishing a Hindu Rashtra? Probably, the ‘Vatican’ elders in Nagpur feel that the Hindus have suffered enough for the last thousand years and it is time for them to assert themselves!

Bharati’s private voice!

March 16, 2017 § Leave a comment


Once a saint was cursed to be a pig. He felt humiliated. So he asked his son to kill him soon after the transformation. The moment his father became a pig, his obedient son approached him to put an end to his’ cursed state’. But his father had second thoughts. He told his son ‘ let me experience being a pig . You may come after a few months to kill me.’
When the son came after six months to carry out his father’s order, the saint- turned- pig told him that he really enjoyed being a pig and that he was reveling in the company of other boisterous pigs. ‘ If you feel ashamed, you may kill yourself’, he added.
This is a story from one of the Upanisads, which Mahakavi Subhramaya Bharati narrates in a poem addressed to the goddess of poetry. He likens himself to the saint in the story. He says ‘ when I was a young poet, I was committed to the Muse totally. But circumstances have led me to renounce my absolute dedication to pure poetry ‘
What does Bharati mean by ‘pure poetry ?’
Apparently, Bharati had two voices in him and one was his private voice, rhapsodic, lyrical and spontaneous and the other, his public voice that led him to identify himself with the political and social causes of his slumbering nation.
In a poem addressed to ‘Parasakthi’ (‘Primeval Power’) he says: ‘ When I pray to my you with the burning fire of intense love and appeal to you to bless me with words of power that will usher a new era of social progress, you tell me with a mysterious smile on your face that a poem well-written is by itself the message and it should have no other thematic burden’
What is ‘Parasakthi’?
Bharati describes it variously as ‘ the sparkling soul of the Dark Night’, ‘Wisdom in stone’, ‘when time has a stop, the Eternity of the Moment’ and ‘ pure ecstasy well-expressed ‘. When he is in this mood, his voice is free-flowing, not given to any homiletic pressure.. This is his private voice which has been. unfortunately, least studied by most of the Bharati scholars.
‘Kuyil Paattu’ ( ‘Cuckoo’s song) remarkably illustrates his private voice. It deals with neither a political nor a social issue. The poem reads like as though it wrote itself. It is in direct conversation with the reader, emanating, as it does from the inner voice of the poet.. Bharati calls it ‘ a dream’ and mischievously adds, which reads like a challenge, ‘ if the learned Tamil scholars are able to find a philosophical meaning for this poem let them tell me’.
And ‘the learned Tamil scholars’ did not disappoint him! One tried to find ‘the Paramatma and Jivatma relationship’ syndrome in the poem and another called it ‘ the poet’s spiritual journey from the known to the unknown’. . Many more such stuff and nonsense followed, while interpreting this poem.
What, then, the poem tells us? It reads like a fairy tale,not committed to logic or reason. It is a fantasy, a dream a la Coleridge’s ‘Kubla Khan’. The dream constructs a story and there is a story within that story. The whole thing is an illusion and there are illusions within that illusion. It is like a wheel within a wheel and one is at a loss to know which is an illusion and which is reality. The reality comes at the end , as the poet wakes up to find himself ‘ living in his old house, surrounded by his ancient mat , writing pen and scattered manuscripts and magazines’.
The recurring theme of love is expressed in exquisite poetry in a universal language, unburdened by thematic or critical conventions .It is a pure poem of sheer aesthetic charm that does not assume the moral responsibility of offering any message to the reader.
The medium is the message.

Is ‘realism’ a dirty word in Tamil theatre?

March 14, 2017 § Leave a comment


When Dr.Padma Subhramanyam decided to found an Institute in the name of Bharata, the ‘ legendary ‘author of ‘Natya Sastra’, the then Chief Minister of Tamilnadu suggested the name of Ilango, no less ‘legendary’ for that matter and the author of ‘Cilappadikaram’, one of the foremost epics in Tamil, be also included. The celebrated and scholarly exponent of ‘Bharata Natyam’ did not hesitate to add his name,( the more the merrier), as what we know ,as of now, about our ancient Indian theatre is primarily from these two books, though it cannot be ruled out that both names ‘Bharata’ (‘actor’) and ‘Ilango’ (‘younger prince’) could be fictitious.
Though it becomes a loaded political debate in the contemporary context to discuss to what extent these two ancient languages Sanskrit and Tamil influenced each other, there is no denying the fact that the concept of a pan-Indian theatrical vision, existed in the collective cultural consciousness of the people from Kashmir to Kanyakumari from time immemorial.
Sanskrit was never a spoken language but was only a ‘cultivated language’ to function as the lingua franca among the intellectuals belonging to the whole cultural region called Bharat, like English is in our contemporary India. There was a steady and uninterrupted flow of cultural exchanges in the field of Art, literature and theatre in those eras between the various regions of the country, ,which, then ,was not broken up by narrow linguistic walls.. The cultural integration between the various ethnic groups in this country had taken place in the dim periods of pre-history and proto-history.
‘Natya’ (Sanskrit) and ‘Koothu’ (Tamil) both meaning ‘theatre’ are as ancient as the literary culture of these two languages It is not impossible to believe that the Tamil word ‘koothu’ has its origin from the word ‘koorru’ ( speech). Tolkappiyam, the most ancient Tamil grammar, has codified under what circumstances and situation the hero can speak(‘koorru’), the heroine can speak, the friend of the heroine can speak, the foster-mother of the heroine can speak etc. So it looks like the entire gamut of ‘akam’ literature was
conceived as theatre by Tolkappiyam and the speech could be either a monologue or dialogue, in which case, the words ‘koothu’ and ‘koorru’ are synonymous.
The foremost and enduring aim of any Indian art form in Tamil or Sanskrit, be it theatre ,music, literature, sculpture or painting is to elevate the recipients by arousing their emotional response, which is precisely called or categorized as ‘rasa’.. The word ‘rasa’ has its etymological root in ‘ras’ (to taste, to relish) and these sentiments are enumerated as eight in number such as rati(love), hasa(mirth) soka (sorrow),krodha( anger), utsaka( valour), bhaya (fear), jugupsa (disgust) and vismaya (marvel) and this codification is with reference to theatre, according to Bharata’s ‘Natyasastra’.
The Tamil grammar Tolkappiyam calls ‘rasa’ as ‘suvai’ and also classifies it as eight and although, by and large the sentiments are the same as in Sanskrit, , Perasiriyar, the 14th century commentator for Tolkappiyam, includes ‘Naduvu nilamai’ (detachment) as one of the emotional states for a successful portrayal of a character in a drama. This is not ‘Santha rasa’ as prescribed for the epics in Sanskrit poetics but akin to the concept of ‘alienation’ as postulated by the German playwright and Director Brecht, as the bottom line of good acting. The actor should alienate himself emotionally from the character he is portraying so that he would be in a better position to consciously project that character well on the stage.
Rasa, the plot and the hero/heroine constitute the intrinsic aspects of any ancient Indian play. It is the main thread of the plot and the experiences of the hero/ heroine that generally determine rasa of the play and once the rasa is determined, it exercises in turn a strong influence on the other two effecting modifications in the plot and in the behavior of the principal character. Anything detrimental to the already established rasa of the play needs to be sacrificed and as such, the casualty is the individuality of characters. This is one of the reasons that in many of our ancient plays, characters are type-cast like the hero/heroine being endowed with all the good qualities and the villain as an incarnation of evil. This non-realistic nature of the plot and characters demands a histrionic art largely based on stylized and symbolic movements We are not very far from this dramatic convention in many of our so-called ‘realistic’ plays in Tamil produced now, as declamations and exaggerated gestures are seen much in evidence.

The first Indian epic-drama of its kind,none to follow!

March 11, 2017 § 3 Comments


I am not sure, whether there is any other work in any other regional language in India except in Tamil to have so much in common with Sanskrit, in regard to the theory and practice of musical and theatrical forms , dating from the early centuries of the common era.
And that singular, unique work is ‘Cilappadikaram’ written by Ilango Adigal, a Jaina monk. Story-wise, it is strikingly original, not outsourced from Sanskrit, but the classical dance and theatrical forms it portrays have close affinity with the codified regulations ,as stipulated in the theatre manual written in Sanskrit ,presumably, by Bharata Muni.
We know very little about our ancient authors, though myths about them are aplenty and as such, for all we know, it may not be a far-reaching speculation to think of Ilango and Bharata as one and the same person, who could have besides writing a manual (‘Natya Sastra’) by way of illustrating it through fictionalization ,also composed the story of ‘Cilappadikaram’.
According to Dr.Zimmer, ‘Sanskrit being the common language of communication among the intellectuals of India in those days,, it would not be surprising to attribute South Indian authorship to many of the metaphysical and theoretical works in Sanskrit’ Giving a date to our authors and works, from the western concept of history is a futile exercise, as our concept of history is cyclic and not linear as in the west.
Is ‘Cilappadikaram’ a play or an epic? It is both. It is this distinction that what makes it different from all other literary works in other Indian languages including Sanskrit. Ilango, a consummate dramatist and innovative literary master that he is, he initiates a new genre that is called as ‘ Muththamizh viraviya pattudai ceyyul’, which means,’ a cultural form that integrates poetry, music and drama’ Like Shakespeare, he knows that each word has two values, one dramatic and the other literary. Only in the hands of a genius, these words acquire their appropriate literary or dramatic identity, depending upon the context , whether you read it as a poem or see it as a play in your mind’s eye. . In other words, a ‘literary word’ , when it is read as literature acquires a new incarnation as ‘dramatic word’, when it is performed as aplay on the stage and one can visually experience it, as if it is one of the actors in the play.
Shakespeare is lucky as he had large number of good directors and actors to project him on the stage as an unparalleled playwright and also a larger number of literary critics to establish his credentials as a poet extraordinaire. But, Ilango is unfortunate in this regard that there has been no analytical in-depth study of his innovative work as an epic-drama of its own kind. Even the dance-dramas that have been attempted so far ,supposedly, based on the theme of this work have not done enough justice to capture its vigor and multi-faceted brilliance.
ILango is an unusual playwright ,who has given an unusual title for his monumental work, which is, ‘Cilappadikaram’, meaning ‘The story of the anklet’. ‘Cilambu’ is an anklet that was worn by young Tamil girls in ancient days, before they were married., which was removed on the wedding night before the nuptials. So ‘cilambu’ is a metaphor for their ‘virginity’ and ‘innocence’ that later becomes the insignia for the ‘pathni cult’ ( the cult of worshipping the deity for chastity) .
This particular anklet that provides the title belongs to the protagonist of the story. It proves to be the agent of destiny for the heroine, the hero and the Pandya king ,who unjustly kills the hero for a crime he has not committed, and also dies on hearing that he has committed a judicial blunder. The wrath of the heroine sets the capital city of the Pandyas on fire. Later, the Chera king invades the North and brings rocks on the heads of the defeated North Indian kings , for installing an icon and building a temple to deify the heroine. The anklet proves to be the pivotal instrument for all such events. Any production of ‘Cilappadikaram’ as a play, should have a surrealistically huge image of the anklet as its backdrop. It represents ‘Destiny’.
‘Fate’ is the bottom line of any Greek tragedy, as we see it ‘Oedipus Rex’ So also we find ‘destiny’ plays a significant role in the events that happen in ‘Cilappadikaram’. As Ilango says, it announces itself in the ‘yaazh’(harp) that Kovalan ,the hero, plays on, that leads to his separation from Madhavi, the
courtesan and to his subsequent death in Madurai, the Pandya capital. Again, it is Destiny that visits the tongue of the Pandya king, who, instead of saying, ‘bring the culprit, enquire and if he is the one who stole the queen’s anklet,kill him,’ blabbers without being aware of it, ‘kill him, if he has the anklet and bring it to me’.
Matalan, a brahmin and a friend of Kovalan, functions like the chorus in a Greek tragedy. He appears in two cantos, the Madurai Kantam and Vanchi Kantam. He provides the connecting link for all the events that happen off stage, like the Greek chorus. Only in ‘adaikalakathai’, we come to know all the noble qualities of the hero (Kovalan) courtesy Matalan and the dramatic value for this scene is the admiration the audience would develop for the hero for the first time in the narration of the story and the traumatic shock they would experience when he is killed for wrong reasons in the very next scene.
A great artist that he is, Ilango to enhance the tragic intensity, brings Kovalan and Kannagi together in the last scene before Kovalan’s death, when Kannagi serves him the delicious food she has prepared for him. They seem to be enjoy the blessings of a happy ,married life after a long gap, when Destiny has the last laugh! This lunch proves to be ‘The last Supper’ for Kovalan!
As in Shakespeare’s plays, after an emotionally-charged scene, there is ‘dramatic relief’ in the form of comedy, Ilango provides relief by a pastoral dance ( “Achiyar Kuravai’) that succeeds the death scene of Kovalan.,
With the death of Kovalan and followed by the deaths of one too many, including the citizens of Madurai, ‘Cilappadikaram’ is not a tragedy.
Why?
One cannot write a tragedy in the Indian context, as all our villains, along with the heroes and heroines reach heavens!. They are not classical, blue-blooded villains by their choice, like Satan in the Christian mythology, but, they are villains, cursed to be so by an angry saint or by divine wrath with a rider that they would be redeemed. Hinduism is a religion of optimism and hope.

All for the Devil called ‘Money’!

March 9, 2017 § Leave a comment


What is ‘Mammon’? It represents the Devil of covetousness, derived from the Greek word ‘mamonas’ indicatin g ‘riches’. But for the majority of the people in India, a happy thought on “World Woman’s Day’ that a goddess symbolizes ‘wealth’. And it is an irony, in the West they are rich and we are poor!
Mammon wins his way, when seraphs might despair! And the bottom line of contemporary philosophy the world over is ‘Money’ with capital ‘M’ in neon signs. No one does a thing these days, because he enjoys it. Writers, musicians, actors, social activists or whoever.
No wonder Milton got only fifty pounds , a paltry sum,for his magnum opus ‘Paradise Lost’ because he pictured Mammon as a Devil. And Mahakavi Bharati died in poverty although he had saluted Lakshmi as the goddess of wealth and prosperity in several poems! Irony again!
As of now, it is the ad-copy that arbitrates the value of things, be it in the field of art, literature or sports.
Mehistopheles and Mammon, alliteration apart, they have this in common, they enslave those, whom they possess wholly. Milton was right calling it Devil! The genesis runs like this, talent begetteth visibility, visibility begetteth popularity, popularity begetteth the notice of for-ever news-hungry visual media, and Mehistopheles in the incarnation of corporate sector, takes over.
A young boy all of just fourteen years, played the game of cricket in a fabulous way, for the love of it and soon he became a phenomenon. He came in for national reckoning, and international glare. The corporate sector made him a ‘one-man industry’. From the first sip of tea he drank in the morning to the night wear he put on before retiring to bed, he became the human bill-board for consumer products. I used to wonder whether that wonder kid ever enjoyed his morning drink or cricket aftertha!
And then this story of a veteran rural artiste, who performed theatre in the villages, stories from evergreen Mahabharata, Ramayana and such epics. Stepped in the city folks and their funding allies, the agencies from abroad. They were brought to the cities and what used to be night-long performances were abridged to two-hour plays so that the metropolitan elite did not miss their dinner, They were taken abroad for one hour shows in the shopping malls. The old man was not at all happy but he had to yield to the pressures of other fellow-artistes and said to have commented in Tamil ‘ எல்லாம் சைத்தான் பணம்’ ( All for the sake of Devil called ‘money’). I am sure he had not read ‘Paradise Lost’!