KOCHI: Romantic, bittersweet and outright hilarious- they own a very unique love story. Crowds still erupt into uproarious mirth when Keshavan Nair and Saramma discuss names for their would-be kids. But when the Sultan is at his sarcastic best, you just can’t help the smile tugging at your lips. Amal Rajdev and wife Divya Lekshmi have been playing the iconic couple for nearly 10 years and Premalekhanam, their theatrical adaptation of Vaikom Muhammad Basheer’s celebrated story, has completed 1000 stages this year. “It simply shows the subject is still popular and appealing,” says Amal.
Truly Basheerian in style, the play is built on disarming humour and colloquial exchanges, aspects that continue to fascinate readers and audience alike. Since it’s a play featuring two characters, they could do way with a lot of technicalities. “It’s not a play confined to well-equipped stages, it was conceived in arena style where the audience can sit around the performing area. All we need is some space and a handful of props, there is no light-and-sound gimmick as well,” says Amal.
Directed by Soorya Krishnamoorthy and scripted by Basheer Manakkad, they first staged the play in early 2008. Lekshmi says playing the tongue-in-cheek Saramma for long has affected her personality as well. “I used to be very shy and Saramma made me more talkative.”
On the outset Premalekhanam seems like a funny take on inter-caste marriage, but through his impeccable sense of sarcasm, Basheer mocks the conservative society and its norms. Amal says the story is still relevant as the situation hasn’t changed much even today. “Though coated in humour, Basheer treats love in a very sensitive and dignified manner. Moreover, the story ends on a note of universal humanism when the characters decide to ditch caste and religion,” he says.
Since Premalekhanam is not a a highbrow production, it has been staged at a range of venues. “School, colleges, office parties and even weddings- we have taken Keshavan Nair and Saramma to a lot of places in and outside Kerala. The fact that it can be enjoyed by all types of audience makes it immensely popular. Since we have completed 1000 stages we have arranged a small event to mark the occasion, Premalekhanam will be staged in the city on May 21 at Tagore Hall at 6.30 pm,” he says.
Amal says being a couple is an added advantage, "for us performances are more like family trips, mostly joined by our two kids," he said. “The response from the audience has been very encouraging and it’s really nice to see their surprise when we announce at the end that we are husband and wife,” chips in Lekshmi.