By Sajeev K Peter

Kerala Arts and Nataka Academy (KANA) Kuwait presented its new theatrical production ‘Vyram’ (The Wrath) before a jam-packed audience at the Indian Community School (Senior), Salmiya. The auditorium resonated with loud cheers and applause as the curtain fell on the third show of the play on Feb 8. Written by eminent Malayalam playwright Hemanth Kumar, the play narrates the tale of a fictitious land called ‘Kodumundapuram’ and its people.

“Although it is a tale of a people who lived a century ago, their sociopolitical ethos has some relevance to the contemporary society,” said Kumar. The drama spotlights the power of a woman as it discusses some of the deep flaws ingrained in the Indian judicial system, leading to wrongful convictions.

Theatre director Babu Chakola has taken painstaking efforts to go beyond the text to give the play a new interpretation that takes the performance to a new level. Despite many limitations as an expat director in producing a drama on a grand scale, Chakola’s absolute devotion to theatre and its craft resulted in the success of the play.

The drama takes theater-buffs on a two-hour non-stop journey through some nail-biting dramatic sequences of tension and suspense. Rather a genre-defying play, ‘Vyram’ does not fall within the definition of a feminist drama, although its theme centers on feminist ideology. “Even when we wax eloquent about gender equality, we still live in a patriarchal society in which women are not always treated on par with their counterparts,” Kumar said.

Demonstrating his versatility as an actor, Chakola deftly handles his twin roles as Sirithi Appan and Karikkan Kammu. The former as a hangman fails in his duty to carry out an execution after an attack on his right hand leaves him incapacitated. The latter as Kammu, a slaughterer by profession, is wrongly convicted and hanged for raping and killing his stepdaughter Kanni.

Manju Mathew plays the powerful character Annalakshmi, the protagonist of the play. Annalakshmi takes up the job of a hangwoman from her father Sirithi Appan and carries out the execution of Kammu. However, it is revealed subsequently that Kammu was wrongly convicted and that Annalakshmi’s lover Mandaran is the real culprit who cunningly misleads the people around him into believing that Kammu is the villain.

As the true colors of the villain are exposed, Annalakshmi vows to right a wrong, albeit partially. Seeking retribution, she entices Mandaran into her chamber, playfully adorns a hangman’s noose around his neck and hangs him to death. Mathew as the female executioner plays her role brilliantly, demonstrating her ability to switch between emotions swiftly.

Kumar Thrithala as the diabolical villain Mandaran played his role exceptionally well. Dr Abraham Thomas as Cheriyon, Shajahan Kodungalloor as Muni Madayan, Aji Paravoor as Adigar, Treesa Wilson as Veni and Jiya Mariam Jiju as Kanni did justice to their roles. The cast list also includes, among others, Jiju Kalayil (policeman), Punnose Ancheril (district chieftain), Gopakumar Navaikulam (magistrate) and Sajeev Peter (doctor).

Breathtaking settings by well-known stage designer Vijayan Kadamperi created an epic-like ambiance for the play. Vakkom Maheen designed the costumes and did the makeup for the artistes, while Chirakkal Raju provided lighting support. Background music was controlled by Sony V Paravoor. ‘Vyram’ is the fourth drama produced by KANA Kuwait after the successful performances of ‘Othello’, ‘Abraham’ and ‘Ningalenne Communistakki’.