Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Koko - A Pantomime in Tamil

After many years of living in Chennai, last weekend, I had my first experience of watching a live theater play.

If you are habituated to drive on your 2-wheeler only on the city roads and then some day had a chance to drive on a highway, for the first few miles you’ll feel some oddity to adjust to the highway heavy vehicle movement. This is how I felt when I started to the see the play. All these years, my eyes/brain was programmed to see only moving pictures in a dark hall, so now seeing the live characters were different when I saw them flesh and blood, that too few feet’s away from me. But after few minutes, I got adjusted and started to enjoy the place.

Pantomie is not a conventional play of what I thought. The story is told using different mediums. Koko is a Tamil pantomime; it is a mixture of dialogues, songs, magic, shadow play and even pyrotechnics. 

The story, although targeted to kids, but seems to be directed towards parents and parenting. It talks about how not to pressurize and push the kids to learn something (which they are not interested). Sounds familiar pitch!. Yes, the difference is how it is presented to us in a fairy tale-ish way and different story telling methods.

After many hardships (Which is shown to us in shadow play), Chikki (Vikas), the hen, lay an egg. She befriends three guys- Rago, Bego and Tego (Siddharth, Naresh and Sujay- Not sure if I got the cast names right!). The egg is hatched after overcoming many sufferings; they name the new born as Koko (Subhasree). As all parents do, Chikki wants her kid all the best, she puts Koko is different schools and training. Koko finally breaks down in the pressure. Chikki realizes her mistake to give a moral end to the story.

There are 11 main characters and few sidekicks, but all the characters are played by only 6 actors. Meaning, they interchanged characters\costumes according to the scenes. Loads of back stage running and effort must have gone into it.

Since the lead character is a hen (Chikki), there are more cackles in the dialogues, which makes it fun and yet understandable by their acting.

Stage space is used intelligently and so the lighting. The focus light is used as an editing tool. For example, 4 characters on the stage, 2 on the left end and 2 on the right. When the light is focused on left it is scene 10-shot 1, when the light is focused on right (left is turned off) it is scene 11-shot 1. Again the left is turned on/right off. The shot number becomes incremental. In films this is inter-cut technique. Similarly, they used jump cut with three different shots.

Great work by the team.

-Naradha Gana Sabha was almost fully packed. Oh they still attract patrons.