SKKN theatre productions are always known for fresh content along with quality in making. I was wondering what is in store for this year when the drama Anthithottam was announced. I watched it last evening in Goodman’s Arts Centre in a nearly-full hall.
Let me jot down my thoughts without any preface. This is not a review nor following the sequences of the drama, and there is no order to my scribble. Please pardon.
At the heart of “Anthithottam” is the character of Madhavan, aka Madvin.
He is a Malayali who was born in the South West Coastal region of India; Mahe in Kerala. Mahe was a very small town and a French colony since 1721. The French acquired the land from the “Vadakara” king and retained it for more than 200 years.
Though he studied at Sorbonne University in Paris, he is deep rooted in to his culture in Kerala through his mother. The Theyyam deity “Sasthappan” and the related folklore are intuitive to him. He was fed with the colourful myth of the deity along with his mother’s immense love.
The deity “Sasthappan” or “Kuttichathan” was born from the union of Lord Shiva and Parvathy while they were in a “Valluvan-Valluvathi” avatar. The deity symbolizes resistance and struggle against oppression, which is, by a large extent, relatable to John Fiske and James Scott’s idea of resistance (at modern times).
This goes in parallel with the possibility of Madhavan, aka Madvin being a commoner standing up against the Nazi oppression, though the Nazis do not have any direct impact on him or his cultural / religious believes. He stood up for France; the nation who nurtured his dreams; the nation which made him who he is; his Karma Bhoomi.
Madhavan is now imprisoned in Paris for being an active member of the French Resistance Movement against German-occupied France. Though it is not clear whether Madvin was part of “Forces françaises de l’Intérieur”; the story agitprop Madvin as a Bolshevik who fought Nazis. He is lonely in his cell with his thoughts that often catapult him into trances. He converses with his mother, he converses with the priest, he converses with his friend Pierre Serge Choumoff, he converses with the deity Sasthappan, he sings French national anthem to torturing Nazi soldiers, he converses with his girlfriend Gisele Mollet.. And there we get the glimpse of his life and his character.
The withdrawal of Madvin’s consciousness is like a dense fog that cloaks his thoughts and blurs the lines between his inner and outer worlds. He is in a trance-like state, his mind retreating from the oppressive reality that encircles him.
What follows next is a breathtaking amalgamation of Theyyam artform and the loud pondering of Madhavan. The “Theyya Kolam” is conversational – providing him answers, giving him solace, and breathing hope in his sole for eternal awakening.
Thoughts reverberate in his mind, and he is often pulled back by the loud reality. This balancing act is stopped harshly, when we hear three loud gun shots. Sasthappan Theyyam flattens the distinctions, like a landslide that destroys the intricate network of human emotions leaving behind lasting peace.. Madhavan grows bigger.. bigger than he was ever before.
“Anthithottam” transports the audience into the inner world of a character rebelling against subjugation and tyranny. The play is a masterful blend of Theyyam artform and the character’s thoughts, leaving the audience in awe of the human spirit’s resilience. It is a good-watch for anyone who appreciates the art of theatre and the power of storytelling.
TAIL PIECE :
Enacting a period drama is an arduous undertaking, requiring great attention to detail and authenticity. The challenge of recreating a bygone era, complete with its costumes, language, and nuances, is not for the faint of heart. Yet actor / director Sreekanth Menon, together with writer Anil Rohit, has taken on this daunting task with admirable courage and skill, presenting a stirring drama set in France during World War II
Their attention to detail is evident in every aspect of the production, from the meticulously crafted costumes and sets to the well-researched details of Madhavan’s life in French prison. The result is a work of art that entertains and educates, reminding us of a tumultuous period in world history.