Saturday, July 31, 2010

Ms. Meena: After-thoughts

There are somethings that money can't buy. But is justice one of them? Or, can it be bought? What is the price of a person's life? of his lie? What all can credit/loan do?

These are some of the questions which the play, Ms. Meena, revolves around. Ms Meena, a play by Chennai based Perch group, written by Rashmi Ruth Devadasan and directed by Rajiv Krishnan, is inspired by Der Besuch der alten Dame (The Visit) by Friedrich D├╝rrenmatt. The play revolved around Ms Meena, the protagonist of the play.

Ms. Meena, is a very successful film star who has made a fortune in her 20 years career. The play starts with the news that Ms Meena is visiting Pichampuram, the village where she hails from. The village is under abject poverty. The villagers are hopeful that she would be able to bring in money to the village. The villagers are convincing Ravi, her Pichampuram day's lover, to talk Ms. Meena out into helping the village.

Ms. Meena, finally, arrives. The village is overwhelmed and hopeful. Ms. Meena announces that she would make a movie on her life and will shoot it at Pichampuram. This would bring in a lot of tourists to Pichampuram, thus, making it prosperous. However, she, has a condition. She wants Ravi to be dead in return.

The audience then discovers that Ravi had ditched Asha (who later one went on becoming the uber-successful Ms. Meena). He had refused to marry her even after finding that she was carrying his child. He went on to marry the daughter of a Kirana store as that would boost his career. So, Asha had come back to the village to take the revenge.

The whole village, initially, supports Ravi and says that he has nothing to worry about. However, the expectation of fortune led the villagers buy a lot of things on credit and they were soon under debts. Also, their personal ambition of working in a movie made them take Ms. Meena's side. Finally, the movie is made. The villagers kill Ravi and his life-size statue is put of at the entrance of the village.

The story of the play is not unusual. It has an expected ending and an expected flow. What made this play different is the way the artists created the sound and the landscapes. We get the first glimpse of this when the artists made sound of a helicopter heralding the arrival of Ms. Meena. The artists, throughout the play, seamlessly transforms from human characters to the elements of the surroundings - like waterfall, birds, trees, etc. The first time i had heard of artists becoming non-human characters was in the sitcom Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai. [This is one topic - review of Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai - which i have been thinking of writing on from a long time]. My second, and first-hand encounter was with the theatre workshop i attended conducted by "Yours Truly" Group, of which yours truly is a part. There we became basin, commode, wax in the ear, etc. I found it very funny and strange until later i figured how it fell in place. Anyway, The perch of the birds, the gushing of the wind, the sound of a moving bus, the sound of a moving train were all done by the artists. Their transformation from a bus to a train to normal villagers was something i saw as an audience for the first time.

The one thing that struck me the most about the play was the vulnerability of humans beings. The fact that Ms. Meena was successful in giving her own justice outside of the legal system is due to the gullibility of the villagers. This reminds of the recession and the sub-prime crises that started from Sept 2008. People had easy availability of loan. This made them buy things which they couldn't afford. But the math needs to be worked out. The money had to come form somewhere. Unfortunately, there was no such source. This eventually led to the recession*. Imagine, if some Ms. Meena would have offered to create wealth in the market in lieu of someone's life - i wonder how many people would have denied. Essentially, Ms. Meena took advantage of the poverty of the people (for which she was responsible) to serve her own purpose. I guess, a lot of politicians do this. Ms. Meena, in principle, bought justice - regardless of whether or not Ravi 'deserved' punishment.

If I were to remake this play, I would remake it from Ravi's perspective. I find Ravi's character very interesting. What would have gone through him when he ditched Asha for career advancement, when Ms. Meean enunciated 'her justice' and when the villagers were after his life? These are complex feelings and would be interesting to develop and portray.

Overall, it was a good play. I was hoping for a 'heavier' play and hence the light-hearted treatment of the play couldn't strike a chord with me. But the different style of presentation was good to watch.


*A very simplified/crude description

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