Blast from the past

 Ithu Bhoomiyanu, K T Muhammed’s controversial drama, is relevant even half a century after its premiere.  

Published: 24th April 2017 03:10 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th April 2017 03:10 AM   |  A+A-

A scene from Ithu Bhoomiyanu which was staged at Nishagandhi.

Express News Service

KOCHI: In 1950s, it broke norms of what public deemed acceptable, a caustic critique of everything orthodox. Actors incited death threats and cops used to swarm theatres and grounds. Ithu Bhoomiyanu, K T Muhammed’s controversial drama, is relevant even half a century after its premiere, its content still capable of ruffling a few feathers. “The highlight of the play is its potent theme, something that hasn’t lost its spark even after so many years,” says Rangoon Rahman, the frontman of Kalinga Theatres, who restaged the play at Nishagandhi.     

From its Malabar parlance to modest props, Kalinga presents the iconic play as it is. “We haven’t tried anything that will spoil the soul of the original,” he says.

Set against the backdrop of a traditional Muslim household, it shows a slew of characters caught in the web of customs and conventions. Women are not allowed to ask questions as  irreverent thoughts lead to dreadful punishments in afterlife. Jahannam, the Islamic hell, is waiting for them even if they leave a single strand of hair uncovered. “It shows how the women are forced to follow a draconian code of ethics, totally cutting them off from everything progressive. The play is a clarion call for equality and empowerment,” he says.      

Ithu Bhoomiyanu revolves around people standing on terra firma, blinded by religion and unable to see some simple facts of life. The 9-part play, that questions the regressive customs of Muslim community, sparked off much anger and uproar in the early days. “The late film actor K P Ummer used to play the role of Haji and he did it braving strong protests from his community.” He adds the situation hasn’t changed even today and they still face problems in rural parts. “Almost ten years back we staged the play at Malappuram. We were asked to stop midway but we continued and completed the play. While we were about to leave an angry mob surrounded us. They were furious that despite being a Muslim I was part of a play that ridiculed the practices of the community. A young boy brandishing a sickle said we will not reach home safely and they followed us till the highway.” He says even now there are people who follow illogical norms with unswerving loyalty. “They must have switched to a modern dress code, but their mindset remains the same.”

Kalinga Theatres started staging Ithu Bhoomiyanu in early 80s and most of the artists have been part of the play for long. Apart from Rahman, Vijayan Malaparambu, Madhavan Kunnathara, M A Nazar, Sudhakaran Thikkodi, Savithri Sreedharan, Rani Divakaran and Dr Nipuna Rahman complete the cast of the play. Now they are staging it after a short gap and Rahman says they are looking forward to more stages. “Ithu Bhoomiyanu is not against religion, but superstitions and the unfair treatment of women. It faces  opposition from certain circles even today, but it’s also a play that has enjoyed immense audience support. So I think  we have a lot more stages to cover,” he adds.  


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