That there were 17 dramas presented in competition in the first ever Gulf Drama competition held by Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademy is the first surprise, at least for people who thought drama is a dying art. The best presentation award went to Bahrain Vadakara Sauhruda Vedi for their drama Mannonnu Manushyanonnu. The drama was scripted by Jayan Thirumana who reportedly flew to Bahrain and spent 10 days with the crew. There were 5 dramas presented in Bahrain, some of them, according to reports, were not up to the mark. However, Manoj Mohan of Bahrain who acted in Vibrant Soft shared the best actor award with Riju Ram of Muscat for his role in Appunniyum Kaduvayum (Appunni and the Tiger).
Muscat had many surprises. Four awards went to Muscat for the 7 dramas competed there. Best actor Riju who acted as Appunni, a character that transforms into a tiger-like figure in his demeanor after seeing the invasion of globalization into villages, also directed the nearly 2-hour drama Appunniyum Kaduvayum. Based on a one-act play written by KPAC Kalesh, the story of Appunni was developed, adding current affairs by Saritha Mohan, a member of Muscat Natakavedi, the group that presented the drama. The climax was when the villagers erect a flag instead of many that had mushroomed in the village. “The audience took the drama into their hearts”, said Riju, “so much so that I was scared they would attack the villain character ûa politician – who áis thrown out of the stage by my character”. A group of Sri Lankan expats who went to watch the drama has taken interest in presenting the drama in Sinhalese because they said this is what happening in Sri Lankan villages, Riju said. Appunni had 32 characters, 11 of them women.
The Best Actress award went to Gopika Ganga Nair, a 9th grader at an Indian school in Muscat. Her character in Maamsaganitham (The Arithmetic of Flesh) is a high school student who is treated as a sensual object by the men in her life including her father. The girl goes hysteric after the video of her privacies shot by her male friend goes viral. The drama, presented by Muscat Idam, áwas penned by the organization’s friend in Kerala and was reworked as the troupe was rehearsing. “It was a team work with of course director Sunil Guruvayoor at the forefront”, said Abdul Gafoor of Idam. Sunil shared the best director’s award with Shemej Kumar of Future Eye, Theatre, Kuwait.
Muscat also bagged the special jury award for Dr R Rajagopal’s drama Jeevante Avasishtam (The Balance of Life) that spoke about an expat who is paralyzed because of his estranged life. Not many gulf based stories were explored in the dramas presented this year.
Pasu (The Cow) written by me for Nirbhaya Theater, Kuwait, GCC’s first women theater group was one of the few exceptions. The one-hour plus drama said the story of some women staying together in a flat in Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh facing their daily tragedies in a confident manner. Their bond was about to be broken when a Syrian refugee approaches them for a night’s shelter. The drama climaxes in the change of attitude of the tenants and an eventual acceptance of the refugee. The drama won the best script award.
Shemej Kumar who shared the director’s award wrote and directed Ushnamekhalayile Penkutty (The Girl of the Hot Region). The drama talked about Mysore wedding, a practice in some parts of northern Kerala where poor Muslim girls are married off to older men coming from Karnataka. áThe one and a half hour drama had rape, intercourse, violence, delivery and a funeral among other things. There were 3 more dramas presented in Kuwait: Amme maappu by Kalpak, áKottukaaranum Kure Thullalkkaarum by Thanima and Rantaam Bhaavam by Kala. The plays were judged by TM Abraham (jury chairman), PV Krishnan Nair (member secretary), and Meenampalam Santhosh (Jury member). The awards will be given on March 27 at Kanakakkunnu Palace, Thiruvananthapuram.