I’ve blogged about Indus Creations previously and this weekend, I got a chance to see Chakravyugam, a play by this south asian non-profit theater group in Seattle. The story of Chakravyugam is cheerful, scary and relentlessly entertaining and a fundraiser for Aid India (http://www.aidindia.org/main/)
The self-consciously clever and witty dialogue and the instantly recognizable setting --- if you can visit a home in Tamilnadu of South India, you’ll swear you’ve been here before. The first time I saw the stage design at the start of the play, I was stunned and it just got better as it progressed as I spent the rest of the time at the edge of my seat so engrossed in the performance of the actors.
Chakravyugam respects the idiosyncrasies of its characters rather than exaggerating them or holding them up for ridicule. And the characters outgrow their own mannerisms and defenses, evolving from a light comedy story into a heartfelt, serious thriller.
A good deal of the credit for this goes to the character Nesamani ( Sridhar Viswanath Caco ). Nesamani , who is an aspiring actor with the most hilarious dialogues, has fed many with stomach-aching laughter. He is able to seem, in the space of a single scene in the climax, hilarious beyond his limits and disarmingly mature. The naivety that peeks through his flippant, wised-up dialogues is essential, since part of the play’s point is that Nesamani is not quite as funny or dismissive as we think he can be.
It’s not simply that he shares a camaraderie with his sister, Karpagam( Chitra Venkatanarayanan) , brother-in-law Subramaniya Nadar ( Subbu Chandrasekaran) and nephew Dhanush( Jagadeeswaran Jayaprakash) , or that he decides to go to the highest court in the country, to fight the property management issue that his family has had for generations. Rather, Nesamani’s maturity resides in that he wants to take revenge and hold accountable the man responsible for his father’s death.
The characters at first seem like familiar caricatures of a typical south Indian Tamil drama: Karpagam, clad in simple, beautiful silk and cotton saris, Subramaniya Nadar in plain white dhotis, Dhanush in modern jeans and branded shirts and Nesamani in tailor-made pants and shirts. But they also turn out to be complicated, intriguing personalities, too.
The shapeshifter Muniyan (Sriram Elayavalli) and villain Rajarathinam(Manoharan Kuppusamy) are uptight and materialistic. Khatra (Vidyashankar Balasubramaniyan) and Zahid (Dhigha Sekaran), the characters that play black magic tantriks could really scare some squeamish and easily spooked audiences like me.
Secondary and minor characters like Janaki (Chitra R), Divya (Aishwarya S), Sundaram (Krishna S), Rathnasamy Nadar (Krishnamachary R), Meenakshi (Madhu S), Senthil (Raj A) and others were at their best.
The director – Manoj Sivakumar ’ and his writing team’s crisp, sharp dialogue-oriented script has a good mix of enjoyable humor and serious overtones. This is especially true of Rajarathinam and Nesamani – the protagonist and antagonist characters. Rajarathinam is loud and ruthless, while Nesamani tends the guttering flame of his deep interest in cinema, watching a number of Tamil movies and mimicking popular actors from the South Indian Kollywood film industry.
The producer Venkat Krishnamachari’s modest, observant skills allows the personalities of the characters to emerge slowly and to change in credible and unpredictable ways. Not only that, Venkat possesses a very impressive leading ability and a great marketing teamto bring to the table.
Sound, Music and Lighting
For avid observers, the play had strong sound design and good score of original music. Speakers and lighting were appropriate for the scenes.
Set Design and Props
Few plays return us to a cinematic experience, to that magical moment when plays are like movies- larger than life. The previous productions of Indus have entertained, instructed and sometimes enlightened. Some have even attempted to overwhelm the audience and their efforts were usually a matter of volume. Something that the stage of Chakravyugam had this time was awe. The set design team( led by Gautham Pannala) has not only transformed the play into this experience with real people but has also confirmed its wonder with the second floor stage, props, creative design, special effects in the cave and black magic tricks.
The play was a bonfire of creativity so wild, so overwhelming, so enviable that to meet the expectations of a supportive audience was to feel the temperature in the theater rise. But while that adrenaline rush of expectation was a sign of hard work and long hours of planning, practice and prepping during Seattle’s rainy weekends, it transformed equally into an indication of greatest delight on the D- day.
The most lasting impression left by Chakravyugam is likely to be the deep satisfaction that comes from witnessing the nearly perfect execution of a difficult task by the cast and crew of the theater group.
If you are in Seattle next year, you don’t want to miss the next production and if you don’t live around here, there are dvds of Chakravyugam available for purchase that come with English subtitles.
Visit - http://induscreations.org/ for more information and support a great cause.