Aarachar – a hang- woman’s tale.


Aarachar by Singapore Kairali Kala Nilayam (SKKN) was showcased at the University Cultural Centre Theatre, Singapore on 20th April 2019 on a sunny day interspersed with sporadic showers. The whimsical Singapore weather notwithstanding the faithful Malayalee drama audience showed up in full support.

Aarachaar or Executioner is a Malayalam novel written by K. R. Meera.  Originally serialised in a Malayalam Weekly over 53 weeks, it was published as a novel by DC Books in 2012. It was translated by J. Devika into English under the title Hangwoman: Everyone Loves a Good Hanging (Hamish Hamilton, 2014).

Set in the state of Bengal in India, Aarachaar, tells the story of a family of executioners with a long lineage, spread over centuries. The protagonist of the novel, Chetna, is a strong and tenacious woman who struggles to inherit this profession which has previously been exclusively been given only to men.

This is the 3rd offering by the revived SKKN, after Manasakshi and Bombay Tailors, and was equally ambitious.

These are not people who rehearse full time for 6 to 8 weeks. They are amateurs, holding down full-time jobs, squeezing out as many hours as they can out of a week, to faithfully head for rehearsals after work. After a full week as bankers, project managers, students and professionals, burning the weekend is inevitable. After all that, isn’t it brilliant when they deliver such an honest and sincere performance.

The performances varied from brilliance and confidence-brimming ones to some slightly nervous jitters. However, the passion fuelled enthusiasm and a supportive audience kept the energy high, despite its Indian feature film length of close to 3 hours.

Directed by the highly experienced Sudheeran Sir and adapted from the book by MKV, the drama is for an intelligent adult audience who need to keep pace with the developments and dialogues closely.  Kudos to the tireless crew who rotated the set multiple times in the dark. Lights by Vidhya Venkat added to the atmosphere and marked the changes in the scenes effectively as well. The background music was controlled and didn’t intrude into the dialogues and scenes. Most of the artists are young professionals who were made to look much older using stage makeup. This was done well by Renuka who worked tirelessly backstage during the entire staging. The lovely Bengal cotton sarees were draped elegantly in Bengali style by Veena and the ladies.

There were lengthy dialogues, especially for the lead characters, Devika, Binoop and Biju; which they carried off flawlessly with nary a cue in sight. This was their first drama under the SKKN banner and I think this might be first of many based on the audience’s positive reaction to their performance. 

Nannitha has already made a mark with her comic sense and timing since Manasaakshi. It would really be good to see her showcase her full range and breadth of performance in an outright comedy.

Veena, Bharat Jayaram and Jithu carried off their rules with the confidence of stage veterans.

Rajiv as the IPS officer and Muralee as the murderer on death row had lots of audible support from friends in the audience, who ironically cheered and rejoiced even as he was walking up to the noose! Shafiq & Shibolin and the two child actors have tested the waters effectively. Hope both the new entrants as well as the experienced will be seen more in the drama scene of Singapore in the future.