Sundarakandam – Where Hanuman reigned supreme
By Janane Venkatraman - CHENNAI
28th November 2012 10:28 AM
While the lights were dimming and the curtains were slowly being drawn, the packed auditorium awaited with bated breath to see just what the Chettinad Players had in store for their eighth annual production. And boy, did they not disappoint.
With equal amounts of drama, comedy and epic action sequences, matched with a well-cast set of characters, Sundarakandam, directed by Jayakumar, kept the audience spellbound.
The play opens with an introduction that this is a journey of self discovery. “Sundarakandam is the only chapter of the Ramayana, where the hero is not Rama, but Hanuman,” we are told. The narrator tells us that this is the story of Hanuman who overcomes odds, doubts and his own fears to finally find his strength, putting Rama on the path to defeat Ravana.
When the story opens, Sita has already been kidnapped by Ravana and it’s been four months since Rama has helped Sugriva defeat his own brother and monkey king Vali. He is waiting for Sugriva to finish with his festivities so that they can continue on their journey to find Sita. But his patience is waning.
Sugriva is too involved with his celebrations to remember that Rama is waiting. He finally comes to his senses when Rama sends an enraged Laxmana to Sugriva’s camp to shake him out of his stupor and the story rolls from there.
Men are sent different directions to find Sita with the warning that would lose their life if they fail. But fail, they do and lose all hope until they are fed information in the form of Sampati, the slain Jatayu’s brother who tells them the location of Lanka.
But Lanka is still a 100 yojanas away with the ocean obstructing their path. No one is capable or strong enough to jump that far and they despair again. Jambhavan comes to the rescue here and reveals that it is Hanuman who will eventually find Sita and that he was born for the task.
Hanuman’s struggles with his doubts and the catharsis of his realisation that he is in fact, capable of the task ahead is the most important part of the story and it’s given its due. The change from the normal-sized Hanuman to the tiny Hanuman was beautifully portrayed and both the actors, Sabari Vyas and Uchit, made the cut.
The play speeds from one scene to another from hereon in; from Hanuman’s battle with Lankini, Lanka’s guardian to his discovery of Sita, from Ravana’s obsessed wooing of her to Hanuman’s battle with Ravana’s son, from Lanka being set ablaze to Ravana’s grief at his son’s death until the play ends with Rama and the soldiers from Kishkinta preparing to storm Lanka.
Asif Haseem as the husband pining for his lost wife is believable and Rohit J as the appropriately enraged Lakshmana adds charm. Special mention has to be made for Sabeer who plays Ravana. Be it the menacing dictator or regal father sunk in sorrow for his dead son, Sabeer pulls it off well. Adding comic relief and conveniently narrating the back story are Kishen and Ashoka Rathnam as the spies from Lanka who become devotees of Hanuman at the end.
Kishkinta, as visualised by Thota Tharrani, is spellbinding, while the costumes designed by Amudha Lakshmi are beautiful. The music and lights by Anish Mohan, Lawrence and Paul Jacob set the mood – contemplative to battle ready to sadness, all within minutes.
‘Right is might’ is the chant that the play ends with, but the inherent message is different – that strength comes, not from the body, but the mind. Sundarakandam is well portrayed.
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