The Park’s The Other Festival - 2005  
    Music. Dance. Drama. Art. You.  
    The Museum Theatre, Chennai 
    Dec 5, 2005  

    "Dushasana" - a solo theatre perfromance by M. Palani, Chennai.  Directed by V.Balakrishnan, script by Na Muthuswamy

    The actor steps up from the basic element, mud and clay and emerges to talk to the audience about his feat. He describes his journey as an actor through various styles and genres. He decides to do an exploration of his styles and selects to narrate the story of how Dushasana was killed by Bhima. To do this, he uses 3 levels – the lower earth from where he emerges, the middle region which is where his characters place themselves and the upper region which he reserves for his esteemed characters. He tells the story of Bhima killing Dushasana by narrating and enacting the gory episode from the Mahabaratha and then as abruptly, returns to his origins, using the techniques of cloth acrobatics and yoga, koothu and a plethora of other skills.  

    M Palani hails from a family of ancient therukoothu performers. He has served with the repertory company Koothu-P-Pattarai for several years and has acted in their productions since joining them. He's an expert in therukoothu, thevarattam, silambam, thappattam and kalaripayattu. He works in cinema and the animation company Pentamedia. He was awarded the junior fellowship for young talented artists for 1998-2000 on theatre mask making, by the Ministry of Human Resources Devt, Dept of Culture, Govt of India. 

    The director V. Balakrishnan is an alumnus of Sri Ram Centre for Performing Arts and the prestigious National School of Drama, wherein he received training from the finest teachers of international calibre, including stalwarts like Naseeruddin Shah, Rashid Ansari, Dr. Anuradha Kapoor, Kanahiyalal and Ram Gopal Bajaj.  

    He was later awarded the Charles Wallace scholarship to attend the international residency for young directors, hosted by the Royal Court Theatre, London. His plays have been performed at the Stagerite Festival in Bangalore, Purusai festival and at the National Theatre Festival in New Delhi. 

    He has acted in over 50 plays in Hindi, English and Tamil, with the top directors of India, including, Habib Tanvir, Baba Karanth, Ram Gopal Bajaj, Ranjit Kapoor and Devendra Raj Ankur.  

    He has worked with foreign directors, including Mariuz Orski (Poland), Valentine Teplakov (Russia), Sue Weston and Gorden (London).  

    The plays directed by him include, Harold Pinter’s 'Ashes to Ashes', Sarah Kane's 'Crave', Girish Karnad's 'The Fire and the Rain', Delon Weerasinghe's 'Thicker Than Blood' and Anupama Chandrasekhar's 'Closer Apart' among many others in Tamil, Hindi and English. 

    Director's Note 
    The storyteller is the actor, character and the play itself. He decides the invincibility of a certain character and demolishes other with a gesture of his hand. The killing of dussasana is an episode from the Mahabharata where the hero bheema faces flake for drinking his brother's blood. N. Muthuswany's script provides allegorical insights into the mindsets of various characters that defend there own convictions with extreme alacrity. 

    At the time of sunset, all oaths and war cries lose their volume, right and wrong goes to rest it is only more body bags needed.  I chose to work with Palani on this script seeing that his unbridled energy and enthusiasm required an objective view.  The trinity is closely associated with us Indians, and we decided to divide our working space into lower middle and upper regions, which the actor conquers with ease and confidence-the theatre of the gods. This is an actor's quest to explore the use of his crafts to narrate a story without embellishing it with unwanted ornamentation. 

    The Founder and Resident playwright for Koothu-p-Pattarai, N. Muthuswamy is recognized as the leading pioneer in experimental Tamil theatre.  In 1969, his production entitled Time After Time was hailed as the first modern play in Tamil stage history.  Since then, dozens of more plays have followed. 

    Born in Punjai, a village in Tamil Nadu, Muthuswamy moved to Chennai in the late 1950s to work as a clerk.  It was here that the corrupting forces of urban life compelled him to reflect on the relatively innocent and genuine nature of village life and customs.  Later, he began to write short stories on this theme.  In the late 1960s, he abandoned prose to write for the stage, relying heavily on allegory.  The plays that began to take shape were driven not by a linear narrative, but by a unique conversational logic that revealed the Playwright's penchant for creating poetic and highly dramatic "pictures" onstage. 

    There followed eight years of intense study of Theru-k-Koothu, the traditional folk street theatre of Tamil Nadu, which left an indelible mark on Muthuswamy's concepts of theatre, playwriting and theatrical training.  These concepts led to the development of his new theatre group, Koothu-p-Pattarai.  His achievement was to simultaneously revive traditional folk theatre and create a new idiom for the contemporary stage based on movement and sound as the main vehicles of story telling.  

    From the beginning, his plays depicted the destruction of personal identity by popular consumer culture through a method that infused folk theatre conventions, with a fresh and contemporary significance.  The folk theatrical devices of the narrator, the mask, acrobatics and puppetry thus took on multiple meanings as intrinsic parts of theme and dramatic structure.  While Eugene lonesco's creative output is typically viewed as an attempt to recapture lost innocence, Muthuswamy's can be seen as a refusal to lose his innocence and individuality under the fragmenting forces of urban life.  The influence of his native village Punjai therefore runs throughout many of his plays, revealing his steadfast resistance to the city's narrow terms of acceptance and the intellectual impoverishment of modern India and many of her historical choices. 

    Abandoning simple narrative plot, as individual human predicaments are not his main concern, Muthuswamy paints broad images of social and political transformation. Seeing the world as more than just a simple catalogue of discrete historical events, this playwright focuses not on the loss of Punjai and its ancient village-level innocence but on the urgent need for its recovery and affirmation. 


    What is The Other Festival?   
    • The Other Festival   • 2005