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A Tamil epic returns

LiveMint logoLiveMint 05-06-2014 Nandini Reddy

After a gap of 15 years, theatre group Magic Lantern and production company SS International Live are reviving Ponniyin Selvan for the stage. Based on a novel written by Kalki Krishnamurthy in the 1950s, the play will be staged in Chennai from 8-14 June.

Krishnamurthy was a Sahitya Akademi Award winner who wrote over 120 short stories, 10 novelettes and five novels, aside from numerous editorials and political pieces.

The story of Arulmozhi Varman—crowned Rajaraja Chola I, one of the kings of the Chola dynasty during the 10th and 11th centuries—and Vandiyathevan—a brave and a brilliant young man who sets out for the Chola court to deliver a message to the king and princess from crown prince Aditya Karikalan—was originally serialized in a local publication and ran for nearly three and a half years in the 1950s. The play was first staged by Magic Lantern at Bucks Theatre at the Young Men’s Christian Association in Chennai in 1999, Kalki’s birth centenary year. This year marks the 60th year since the story was first published.

In his second outing with this magnum opus, playwright E. Kumaravel has adapted the play for a wider audience. It was no mean task to condense a 2,400-page epic story into a 210-minute play. His brother, Elangovan Kumanan of SS International Live, helped to bring it to the stage. They are the grandsons of the late M. Rajamanickanar, an authority on Chola history.

“Adaptation of the novel into a play happened more by chance than by design. In the previous adaptation, we were worried about appeasing the fans of the story. But this time round, we would like to appeal to a wider audience. Hence, I have taken the main plot that is centred on the events leading to Karikalan’s death and woven in characters who contribute to this,” says Kumaravel.

Intensive workshops for actors began in January, with training in Parkour and Silambam for the action sequences. Director Pravin Kannur says: “When I directed this play in 1999, I was more focused on erecting the novel on stage and I created it for those audiences who were familiar with the story. This time round, it’s a more linear plot, anyone can follow it, and we have created a great theatrical experience with our sets and technical aspects to give the audience a feel of sitting through an action thriller story.”

Original music for the play is being composed by Paul J. and the sets are being designed by award-winning artist and art director Thota Tharani.

Ponniyin Selvan will be staged from 8-14 June, 6pm, at The Music Academy, New No.168 (Old No.306), TTK Road, Chennai (28112231). The play will also be performed in Madurai and Coimbatore from 27-29 June and 4-6 July, respectively. Tickets for the The Music Academy performance, `100, `200, `500, `1,000, `2,000 and `3,000, available on here for details.

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