CHENNAI: Human life is the mother of all gifts and one should not fritter it away in meaningless acts. Is it the fault of the child to be born in a community deemed as outcast? Can the infant be blamed to be born as a female? To find meanings in a life, education is the key to the magical doors of wisdom. The pertinent points of Narayana Guru (19th century) had a theatrical entry, thanks to the dream of nonagenarian Kudanthai Mali.
Staging it on the Martyrs’ Day was apt, as he was known as the first Mahatma who proclaimed the slogan of universal brotherhood. Himsa was not acceptable to the Guru, and he explains it with a great degree of conviction to the Mahatma in the well orchestrated act.
At the inauguration of ‘Mahaan Sri Narayana Guru’ under the auspices of Kartik Fine Arts at MFAC, Mali, who dramatised and directed the play, said that it was an ambition, living with him for decades. “Sri Narayana Guru was not only a liberator from evils of tradition but also a builder of a new social order where racism, casteism, and hatred has no place. There is no better time than the prevailing one to practice the teachings of the great Guru,” he said.
An important philosophy
Mali pointed out that Guru’s philosophy of one race, one religion, and one god reveals the fundamental unity of the human species. He said, “It also is the basic truth of all religion and the common goal of all religion. It is not a revolutionary play but one where the worth of the great sage had been revealed to the present and future generations.”
Though the life history of Narayana Guru is vast, only portions pertaining to his social reforms were focused. About 32 characters centering around the Guru was a visual treat. Some of the artistes enacting two or three characters showed the team spirit and the longing to partake the joy in spreading the happiness.
The segments which got its due were the caste differences — giving food to the orphaned children which was seen as serving the almighty, the message to hurt no one, helping elders in need and the imperative need of the lesser privileged class to not cow down before the upper castes. The sage (portrayed by KRS Kumar) said the inferiority complex had to be ridden. He said, “When you are barred from entering the Saiva temple, why not find the resources and build one. Keep the door opened for every individual, even to the ones who detested our entry. Meet fire with fire, the more you bend down, the more will be the blows.”
On the forced marriage which the Guru does not accept and reasons out with the bride, the concept of ‘Podavai Kodai’ in Kerala, gets a decent thrashing. Back in the fold after nine years, Madhumitha leaves her solidity in one solitary scene. Her pleading ways and homing in a point from the woman’s vantage point had the gumption to reach the distance. Playing the school life to marriage, Venkatesh justifies his reputation. His apt body language and perfect rendition of the dialogues was what the director may have ordered. Seasoned Anand Srinivasan sports three character, and does that with maturity.
Building a temple for all, teaching children of all castes, expertise in medicine, treating all on a par and meeting dignitaries, when empowered with such wisdom, the Guru has his hands full. Leaving no stone unturned, he had waged a lone battle as a social educationist and condemned discrimination in the name of caste, creed and religion.
A strong advocate of education, he had set up a school for students for the lower strata of society and provided them free education. Armed with knowledge in Vedas, Upanishads, literature, Sanskrit logic rhetoric, the sage took delight in sharing with others. Consciously, he used mirrors instead of idols in one of the many temples he built in Kerala. The knowledgeable ones believed that the act translates to his teaching that the divine swelled within everyone of us.
These are areas which found the prominence, not to miss out on the similarities of the Guru with Vallalar in their line of thinking while attaining mukti.