Sunday, July 10, 2005

Peaceful Times

When war crumbles the Earth, Peace rebuilds it.

And when corrupts our minds,

Peace restores it.

By: Thomas Ramanan Paul

Thursday, July 07, 2005














(Ambi is on the Bound. In the background is heard tank–related sounds: sounds of breaking waves on the bound: sound of a cool breeze: the “tuk, tuk” noise of woodpecker pecking a tree, etc, this goes on for a while. It is followed by a rendering of the verses from the stone inscription of the tank)
(The voice is heard from the behind the scene.)

A hoe of eight fold directions
To cut down a tree of seven span
Tapping with a foot to topple,
Yet, before it fell
A tank he built on earth,
And therein filled roaring waters,
Oh, virtuous king.

Ambi: Marvelous, Oh, the King Kulakottan, marvelous. Cutting the earth on eight directions: cutting down the trees of seven spans, tapping with a foot to topple: and yet, before it fell, you built a tank on the earth: filled, full with water. Oh, Your Majesty, how could I praise your patience?

(tuk, tuk: the sound of the woodpecker pecking the tree: sound of the horses’ hoofs in the background.)

Mullai rides the Royal Chariot – passes Ambi. Ambi, startled, turns his head towards
the chariot and cries aloud.

Ambi: Stop, stop the chariot. Mullai stop I’m Mulivannan, your husband. Stop the Chariot. (runs behind it.)

Chariot stops. Mullai alights from it, waves her hand at Ambi.

Ambi: Ah ha! this indeed is the greatness of a wife. May you be glorified – you who in my absence is the charioteer of the King.

Mullai moves on. Ambi gives chase. Mullai runs Ambi runs behind.

Ambi: Oh, Mullai the Princess of the Forest. Where do you run? Stay, ahead is the forest. Stop don’t run. (Mullai leaves the stage.)

Soliders: Stop, stop, Don’t run Duwanda eppa. You’ll be shot.
(Ambi runs. Soliders give chase – catch Ambi. They struggle.)

An officer (enters): What’s happening? Who’s he?

A solider: Sir, he’s come to blast the tank with bombs. He tried to run away when he saw us. We had to give a chase before we apprehended him.

Officer: Put him in the bunkers. We’ll see later.
All exit.

Ambi’s house: Amma is ironing Ambi’s shirt. Father is painting Ambi’s bookshelf.
Ambi: Amma shall I iron my shirt?
Amma: What? How many times I’ve told you not to talk such nonsense. Do you want to burn your fingers? Do your studies, instead.
Father: Has Ambi started minding other’s business? ( to mother) First he asked me whether he could paint his bookshelf. I warned him to mind his own business, He doesn’t learn,(to Ambi) Why don’t you do your home work? Or revise your lessons?
Ambi (reads); The King Kulakotan lived during the 14th century. History records that King Kulakotan built the famous Koneswara Kovil and the tank which is presently known as the Kantale tank.
Ambi: Amma, my Sigiriya Trip? Tomorrow the last day for giving names. All my classmates are going.
Amma: That subject’s closed.
Father: What’s it?
Amma: Ambi’s class’s going on a trip to Sigiriya.
Father: Sigiriya? You’re only in year ten. You ‘re too young to go there.
Ambi: But….. Amma all my classmates are going.
Father: I don’t care about your classmates. You’re not going.
Ambi (reads): King Kulakottan had a trusted charioteer by the name of Muhilvannan. Muhilvannan and his beautiful wife Mullai occupy a special place in history as loyal servants of the King Kulakottan.
Ambi: ( to himself): How lucky, my friends, they must be getting ready now.

Chorus in the backstage.
Where’re you going my friends
Where’re you going?
We’re going to Sigiriya, Ambi,
We’re going to Sigiriya.
Why go there my friends,
Why go there?
To see the majestic rock in its splendor, Ambi,
Majestic rock in its splendor.
What else you see there my friends,
What else you see?
Damsels painted on walls, Ambi,
Damsels painted on the walls.
Have a good trip, my friends,
Have a good trip.
We pity you Ambi,
We pity you.
Mother and Father talking to each other.
Father: These days it’s not safe to send children anywhere. I don’t understand why schools organize such trips. Who‘ll guarantee the safety of our children? I must talk to the principal.
Mother: Talk to Ambi’s class teacher too. Even sending the children to school is a risk, leave alone the trips. I’m on pins until Ambi returns home from school - explosions of bombs, round – ups….
Father: Identification parades in front of hooded men …… what and what responsibilities we parents have. ( after a short pause) We’re giving Ambi the best we can. It’s been the same always. Do you remember (Ambi listens) when Ambi was seven years old?
Mother: Yes, yes. He wanted to go to the “ther” festival with the children of the neighborhood. Those young boys wanted to go all by themselves. I clearly remember you refused to allow him. How he cried the whole evening! He even refused to take dinner.
Father: But, then I took him myself. I’m sure he enjoyed it. I even bought him an ice-cream and a toy gun, AK 47.
Ambi (to himself): Enjoyed? Holding my father’s hand, being dragged behind.
Who goes with you, Ambi
Who goes with you?
That’s his father.
That’s his father.
Why hold his hand, Ambi,
Why hold his hand?
For his safety, of course,
For his safety.
What see you there, Ambi
What see you there?
What shows his father
What shows his father.
You see ther, Ambi
You see ther?
(Ambi): Father in between
Ther and me, ther and me
Father: (turning towards Ambi): Ambi run up to the corner shop and get me two panadol and a ginger beer. The smell of his paint causes me migraine. Take this twenty rupee note. Two panadol - three rupees, ginger beer thirteen fifty. That’s sixteen fifty, the balance is (Ambi’s getting ready to leave) three fifty.
Wait Ambi change your black shirt. There’re army men all over the place.
Mother: Go along the side of the road. Look on both sides before you cross Don’t stand on the road, talking to your friends.
Father: Don’t go in your jeans, wear shorts. You look small in that.
Mother: Ambi looks too big for his age.
Father: He can get his I.C. only next year.
(Ambi is about to leave with an empty ginger beer bottle).
Father: You wait. The army convoy usually passes at this time. You better do your studies.
(Father leaves with the empty bottle)
End – Scene
1 “Ther” – A chariot on which images of Hindu gods are placed and drawn by bullocks along streets during Kovil Festivals.

Scene – Three
(A/L class settings)
Teacher: Our next topic is the life cycle of the butterfly. We’ve already dealt with the classification. You should be through in that section.
Five marks are awarded for classification and ten marks for the life cycle. You can’t afford to lose any marks on this. Now the life cycle of the butterfly. There are foyr stages; the egg the caterpillar or the larva the chrysalis or the pupa, and the adult, that is the butterfly.
If you have any questions you may ask me. Only up to this point.
Student 1: Miss do all insects have this type of life cycle?
Teacher: No, not all. This is not a characteristic of the class insecta.
Ambi: Miss, swarms of butterflies fly towards Kathirgamam in January every year. Is it part of their life cycle?
Student 3: They go on a pilgrimage, if you like you too can join them. (All students laugh)
Teacher: Silence. That”s out of point. Nobody is going to ask this question on the exam. I have studied the question papers of of the past five years. And I’m sure there ‘ll be a question on butterflies this year.
Student 2: Ambi’s always like that Miss, asking questions out of the syllabous.
Teacher: Your time is short, but the syllabus is wide. You must pick and choose what’s necessary for your exam.
Student 3: (to Ambi): ask that question again. (to teacher) Miss, Ambi wants to ask a question.
Ambi: Miss, what I want to say is …. Butterflies are beautiful…..
Student 1 (to Ambi): Shut up don’t start your T.V. serial again. You should have studied in the Arts stream.
Student2: Ambi wanted to join the Arts stream Miss. His father only put him here.
Teacher: That’s immaterial. Now you’re here, you must work hard. (to all students) Your parents want you to become doctors. It’s your duty to fulfill their ambitions. How many of you will enter the university, that I have my doubts.
Student 3 : (quietly) Archimedes is going to ask an important question.
( to Ambi): Miss has not answered your Kathirgamam question, ask her. (To teacher Miss Ambi wants to ask a question.
Teacher (to student 3): Ramesh, you’re spoling Ambi. Are you his mouthpiece.?
Ambi: But, miss, butterflies…
Teacher: I’ve told you a number of times, passing the A/L is not enough.
It’s the aggregate marks that counts. Whatever you study, you must memorise. If you don’t memorise, then don’t expect to enter the University.
Student 1 : (to Ambi): You and your butterflies.
(to teacher) Ignore Ambi, Miss he lives in fantasy land. (to Ambi) Because of you.
A lot of time has been wasted.
Teacher: All right. One of you read these notesw aloud, others take down, Do it quietly. (teacher hands over the note book to Ramesh and leaves)
Ramesh; Ambi, read these notes aloud. Come to the front. (Ambi comes to the front)
Ambi, butterflies, beautiful,
Very beautiful, aren’t they?

Ambi; yea Ramesh, they’re beautiful,
The petal like wings, Lovely hues of different shades,
So soft and smooth,
Aon each of which a pattern stands.
With lovely pink and purple spots,
See how thy glide,
Flapping their winfgs
So gently,
Like a ballet dancer.
(Ambi is absorbed in his thoughts. Students mime the actions.)
Students: Wa, wonderful, your’re a philosopher, Ambi.
Student 3: Ambi, once more.
Ambi: (Continues)
Hundreds and hundreds of butterflies
On their way to Kathirgamam.
Their shadows like clouds
Covering the green fgrass below
Like the souls of the departed
Flying in the clear sky.
Oh, how I wish
I were there.
All studrnts: Eureka, eureka, our Archimedes has done it again (all laugh).
Student 3: At this rtate, Archemedis’ll become Mendel.
Student 1: Mendel or Mental.
Student2: Not only Ambi, all of us will be flying like butterflies. ( mine the action)
Student 3: Who knows? Ambi’ll become a mental doctor, one day.
Stuent 2: To treat us. (all laugh)
Ambi: Mahes….
Mahes: Oh, leave us Ambi. We’ve better things to do than listen to your Mini Ramayana.
(They take the note book from Ambi and leave)
Ambi: (to himself): How happy you must be
Oh, butterfly.
How I remain,
So lonely, dejected,
No pme tp sjare
My feelings with…
Voice: how he remains,
So lonely, dejected,
No one to share
His feelings with….
Chorus: But thje water of the lovely tank
The gently breeze.
The butterflies
In their thousands
Drifting over the woods
So dark and deep,
The call of the birs,
The far horizon.

Are all yours, Ambi.
Your world
Is your Own Ambi.
Scene – Four.
(Ambi’s house. “Ambi is seated, lost in his thoughts. A knock on the door is heard)
Ambi’s mother (from another room): Ambi, see who’s knocking on the door. I don’t know what you’ve been doing from morning. Sitting there and just brooding. You’ve been doing this for the last four years, since you failed you’re a/L.
(Ambi rather reluctantly walks to the door and opens it. Rasathi comes in, holding a weekly in her hand.)
Ambi: (forgetting himself): A….i, Mulla….i.
Rasathi: Stop this madness. Call me
Rasathi. Here read this “Thinamurasu” without idling all the time.
Ambi: (takes it, then after a second thought – what’s the usee? Everything is over for me.
Rasathi: You’re in a dull mood, Ambni. Are youbnstill worryi8ng about….. about that proposal? Forget that. Why do you want to take it so seriously?
Ambi: (getting lost in his thoughts)
She was so beautifuyl.
Smiled at me so lovingly.
Moved like a swan,
Clad in rainbow colours.
Mullai waiating ready to embrace Mu;hilvannan,
Bsedie the “Ther” on the banks of the tank.
Butterflies in their thousands.
Heralding the good news.
Of like …. So sweet.
Rasathi: Bniut, uyoiur mother didn’t like her.
Ambi: Oh, how she longed to talk to me.
Frasathi: You talked to her Ambi?
(Mother overhears the conversation as she enters)
Motherm (angrily): Talk toher, Ambi didn’t d\go there to talk to her. We went there to see dthe girl. …. Whether she would be a good daughter - in –law for me. But she wanted to talk to Ambi. What a disgrace?
We, the elders were seated talking about dowry and donation…. She wanted to take Ambi to aside and talk. Shame. Decent girls don’t do that.
Rasaathi: What did Amni do? Aunty?
Mother: What’s there for him to do? Ambi’s not brought up in that manner. I told him then and there, in the presence ofll: “Ambi is is not the girl for lyou. Let’s get out from her.” I left the place immediately talking Anbi with me.
Rasathi: Ambi’s very much worried aunty.
Mother: Worreid? (noticing the weekly in Ambi’s hand) You gave him that? (getting angry) How dare you give hin this and that do entice my son? I don’t like the way you talk to him. Why do you want to talk to hium about his marrige? You have no business with him. Girls of lyour age shoul lhave modesty, trying ot hang on to my son.
Rasathi (getting anghry): Oh, your son is Salmon Khan, for me to go behind him. Everybody knows about your son, he cazy he is, uyou thik he’s still ababy. He’s twenty five years. You still tell him what to do, what to eat, how to dress and to walk. You’ve never given him a chance to decide on anything. It’s because ofyou, he’s like this. You compelled him to do Science subjects in A/L, how much he wanted to do Arts subjects. When he failed the exam, you put the blame on him. Aunty, now the world’s different. Ambi belongs to this words, our worlde, and not your world. Remember that , oh , how I pity khim.
Mother: you needn’t tell me about my son. And we don’t need your pity, either (grabs the weekly from Ambi’s hands and throws it at Rasathi.)
Let this be youyr last visit to this house. Never step into this house againg, never.
Rasathi: (gathers the Weekly) (to herself) These people never change. Poor Ambi. (She leaves)
(Ambi turns the pages of a book aimlessly.)
1 – Thinamurasu – Weekly magazine.
Scene – Five
Ambi is on the Chariot, waiting for the king.
Mullai appears on the balcony, Ambi is excited, He waves his hand at Mullai. She waves at him back. Ambi jumps down from the chariot.
Ambi: Oh my princess,there on the balcony,
(tries to climb up the balcony,but his feet slip. Ambi tries again searches for Mullai up in the balcony)
Ambi: Mullai, Mullai, where did you go? My angel, my princess, my goddess.
Ambi searches for Mullai, running here and there, excited. Policemen enter, catch Ambi, hold him tight and take him away. Ambi murmurs: Mullai, Mulla…I
End Scene five

Court Scene
Lawyers, Ambi’s father, mother and others rise when judge enters Ambi is in the box.
Judge sits and others follow suit.
Court Mudaliyar : Case No: PC 1316 Kantale.
The accused is Nathan Vadivel alias Ambi.
Arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
(to Ambi)
Repeat what I say:
I say the truth ….., and nothing but the truth.
Ambi: Your Majesty, I know nothing, but Mullai.
Mudaliyar: (getting angry) Repeat only what I say.
Your majesty, sh….. no, no….., my Lord,
What I say is the truth ……
(grabs Ambi’s hand, forces him to take oath)

State council : My lord, the accused is charged under the Prevention of terrorism Act, with
An attempt to poison the water in the reservoir. Which serves hundreds and hundreds of villagers.
Judge: Are you guilty or not guilty.
Ambi: Your Majesty, I was searching for Mullai in the balcony, when the guards brought
me here.
Judge (to the lawyer) : What does he say?
State council : My Lord, the behaviour of the accused has been found abnormal, this
Medical report (submits) supports my statements, Under these circumstances,
The state wishes to withdraw the case against the accused.
Judge (after reading the medical report): According to this report, the accused suffers from mental imbalance, he needs psychiatric treatment. I dismiss this case and order the accused to be released to the custody of his parents.
The court is adjourned. (Judge leaves.)
End Scene Six

Scene Seven

(Temple setting)
Voice : Konesweram Kovil
On the hill top
The sky above
And the sea below,
Serene atmosphere.
Images of gods
Showering Blessings
On crowds of devotees,
Chanting prayers.

Ambi : Ah, ha.
Oh, King Kullakottan
Your service is noble.
How this enchanting atmosphere
Mesmerises me.
My cuckoo bird of the garden of flowers.
Where have you gone?
Konesha Kovil
Festivity at its peak,
Where have you elude me,
My Mullai?
(V0ices of women are heard)
ah,that’s the voice
Of the angel of my heart
It’s the melody that lingers
Long after the cuckoo bird
And the mynah bird have sung.
(A group of women go past Ambi)
Woman 1 : hey,come quickly,the pooja’s about to begin.
Ambi; aai, MULLAI.
I’ m here. Where do you go ?
( Ambi pulls the hand of a woman. She slaps him.)
Woman 1 : He’s mad. Why did you slap him?
Woman 2 : Nonsense.
Ambi: Ai,Mullai.
You slapped me?
( Ambi tries to go near the woman. Guards of the temple assault Ambi.)
Ambi : (loud) Oh,King
Is this your royal justice?
You removed my Mullai from me.
And allowed your guards to assault me.
Is this your justice?

End Scene.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

‘Annaviyar’ Palahappodiyar of Kannankudah, Batticaloa is one of the prominent Masters of the art of Kooththu, the traditional Theatre of the Thamils of Sri Lanka. He is skillful in both styles of Kooththu, the ‘Thenmody’ and the ‘Vadamody.’ These two styles of the traditional theatres of the Thamils are prominent in the Eastern part of Sri Lanka and popular among the Thamils of Sri Lanka.

‘Annaviyar’ Palahappodiyar’s knowledge and skill in Kooththu is tremendous and he is one of the living resource bases of the indigenous knowledge and skills of the Thamils of Sri Lanka. His support to the Kooththu Reformulation program of the Seelamunai, Batticaloa is commendable.

‘Annaviyar’ Palahappodiyar is one of the energy bases of the art of Kooththu as a living art in the Eastern Part of Sri Lanka in the contemporary world. His consciousness and contribution to the future of Kooththu is also appreciable.


Friday, July 01, 2005

Politics of Reformulations.
Reformulation of Community Theatre based on Kooththu*.
(*Traditional Theatre of the Thamils of Sri Lanka)
The politics of Reformulation is a shift in the paradigm from machine-centered Industrialization & Computerization to one that people-centered. Redefining or reinventing the concepts of development and technology is the pre-requisite for this process.
It is basically liberating the human beings from machines and re-connects them with the nature.

Fundamentally human beings are also elements of nature but with the power of modern technology to control the nature or the whole Universe for its own benefits. But the “Modern Man” with his powers created the world for a few and brought destructions to the rest.

The concept of Reformulation involves a process of unbinding Man from Mechanization and make him a human being to live in a world of equality where difference is celebrated. This will be achieved through different kinds of ways and means at different levels.

The process of Kooththu could function as one of the means to formulate a people oriented activity in the creation of a world of equality where the difference is celebrated.

Kooththu is not only an art of the artist in the modern sense, but it’s mainly a process of a community. The basic process of the Kooththu system is learning it; by doing it collectively and the primary source of it is Memory. These aspects made the Kooththu process primarily a practice oriented one.

Modernization and Commercialization of Kooththu alienate the people who own it and practicing it for generations. The pre colonial nature of Kooththu is considered as crude, unsophisticated, primitive and the art of the illiterate and the uneducated because those who involved in the Kooththu at the community level are not educated in the Colonial Education Institutions and are not the consumers of imported spirits.

The influence of the politics and aesthetics of Modernization played a vital role in the perception of Kooththu in modern times. This perception made the “educated” to think that Kooththu as Medai Kooththu (Kooththu in the Picture Frame Stage). Kooththu was dislocated from its origin and appropriated to a new space introduced by colonial power. A community oriented performance art was minimized to performance oriented art for the audience in a colonial building and the audience was made to think, it’s modern.

Sivagnanam Jeyasankar
Department of Fine Arts,
Faculty of Arts &Culture,
Eastern University Sri Lanka,
Sri Lanka.