One man, many people

Anandsami’s solo act based on writer Sundara Ramaswamy’s short stories kept people riveted on a Friday evening

Everyone looked stunned! It was neither the cool evening nor the cold air blown from the air conditioner that made them look frozen. Rather it was the glimpse of his eyes in the dim yellow light.

We were at a solo performance by actor Anandsami, who was presenting a theatrical rendition of two short stories by renowned Tamil writer Sundara Ramaswamy. The setting was a cheerful room at @ 641, Saibaba Colony. I was more interested in the setting — there were guitars tennis rackets and balls, paintbrushes and a piano strewn around and the walls were painted with cameras and film rolls — than in the conversations going on around me.

The audience ranged from elderly people chatting with each other to youngsters scrolling through their mobile phones. The seating was also varied: from rows of cushioned chairs at the back to the jamakalams in the front. I found a place in the jamakalam and made myself comfortable.

There didn’t seem to be anyone in costumes. And the stage had just a wooden bench with a couple of focus lights. Was that all, I wondered. After a quick introduction by Professor Ramaraj of PSG College of Arts and Sciences , the lights went off leaving a spotlight around the bench. The audience fell silent as a man dressed in a white dhoti and crumpled checked shirt slowly walked towards the bench.

Slowly the actor lay on the bench and turned his head towards the audience. His eyes were wide open and filled with sorrow with a hint of anger. As he sat up, he began speaking about being confined to bed. Even as he spoke, he suddenly reacted as if a wasp was crawling over his chest and neck onto his face. It was so realistic that we all felt that there was actually a wasp in the room. He described the clouds, the daily passers-by, the moon … all that he saw through the window — Jannal, as this act was called. His voice modulation and the dialect of Nagercoil kept everyone engrossed. With his voice being the only sound heard, even the click of the cameras seemed unnaturally harsh.

All of us keenly felt the author’s sorrow when the bed was moved away from the window according to the doctor’s advice. When Anandsami finished with a “vanakkam”, it took the watchers a minute to come back to the real world.

A well-deserved round of applause

A well-deserved round of applause

Even as the sound of applause filled the air, Anandsami moved away to get ready for his next act. People continued to watch him as if his preparation was a part of the act. With a munda baniyan and a glimpse of the pattapatti through the transparent white dhoti and a complete transformation in his voice, pace and style of delivery, Anand Sami dived into Seethai Mark Seeyakkai Thool.

In this comical yet poignant short story of an artist’s uncompromising representation of Seeta from the epic Ramayana for an advertisement, Anand Sami played three roles: the proud artist Subbiah Achari, his wife Subbamma and the rich merchant Panicker. He nailed the act by differentiating the characters through his gestures and voice modulation.

The play started with Panicker ordering Seeta’s portrait for his seeyakkai thool ad and offering advance amount of ₹100. Watching Anandsami, one could not feel that he was painting in air rather than on artboard. The funny conversations between Subbiah and his wife kept the audience laughing.

Finally when Subbiah refuses to compromise and agree to Panicker’s demands, the contract is cancelled. While Subbamma is happy that her husband’s wonderful work will remain with them, Subbiah is worried about the lack of money. The actor cleverly brought out the conflict between artistic principles and need to make a living. Many people felt that the plays could have been a bit longer. Anandsami was also praised for subsuming his identity into that of his characters.

‘Short stories questions the basic beliefs and disciplines of today. Sundara Ramasamy had his own style of writing . Even if a single word is removed from a story, it might change the entire meaning,” said Professor Ramraj. Anandsami mentioned that he had performed Jannal more than 70 times. Performing it before the author’s family was special, he said, adding that their emotional response touched him. Dharanidaran of Udalveli Arts Foundation and B Shanjay of @641 thanked the audience for their support in making live theatre come alive again.

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