From the time I lived close to Ayodhya Mandapam in West Mambalam, Chennai, I always used to feel fascinated by the devotion of people on Mahaperiyava of Kanchi Acharyas. As a devotee and it was this interest and devotion of the living saints of our times, I pinged Kumaran, son of Sri Elango Kumanan, Director- SS International Live who is the writer /Director of the Stage Play – Deivathul Deivam. Kumaran and his mother Smt Karpagam were happy to share the passes for the show at Music Academy on 15 Jan 2018.
It was the beginning to a spectacular extravaganza of devotion, dedication and delight to the eyes and sweet honey tones of sankara hara hara sankara to our ears.
It is a week-long celebration of the Kanchi Acharayas in its own way by the bhaktas. There is no end to this surge of devotion and every minute of the 3 hour show is an indication of celebrating the life of a great man who lived amongst us.
The Life history of Mahaswami, the great Mahaperiyava Chandrasekarendra Swamigal, is presented through the play Deviathul Deivam, by close to 100 + artists and technicians working under the able guidance and leadership of Sri.Elango Kumanan. I am sure SS International will have this as a biggest feather in their cap of success as they organized this drama – a delightful festival celebrating the saint with the blessings of Kanchi Acharaya and a gamut of well-wishers and devotees...
The sets were equally spectacular and appropriate by none other than the designing genius Thotta Dharani. Having hailed from the family of Art Director, A.K.Sekar, I could not stop admiring the beauty and reality of the sets that transformed the stage into the divine Kanchipuram and other areas where ever Sri Mahaperiyava has laid his golden footprints. Having Mandolin U.Rajesh and Sri Rajesh Vaidya sitting few rows in front of us, along with so many other industry stalwarts, I could not stop admiring the spirit of devotion to the Kanchi mutt and dedication to the Tamil stage.
Right from the childhood/teenage to the various stages of life of Mahaperiyava, his transition from being a student to a saint, his softness, his simple and humble living, his high thinking, his deep understanding of his devotees, his breathtaking narratives of his times and relating to the future and today’s presence all added to the spectacle.
The personal experiences of various people, irrespective of religion, age, caste, creed, rich, poor, men, women, has been very beautifully portrayed. The Bangle seller, the poor lady, the muruku patti, Sri Kalki Sadasivam and MS Amma couple, Padma Subramanyam , autograph student, judge, auditor, business man, various other devotees greeted, revered and respecting Mahaperiyava shows that he was beyond any kind of limitations. To him, everyone was equal. He never let anyone go empty handed. Not to expect more than what is needed, is not just sanyasi stage, but a sense of contentment which leads to fulfillment in life. The actors made the audience relive the moments of our experiences with the great saint.
Thotta and Set Design goes hand in hand and there can be no flaws when it is the man behind the show. It is just another feather in his cap. For us audience, it is just another piece of excellence to witness. The houses of Dindivanam, the temples during travels of Mahaperiyava, the street lights, the beautiful set of the kanchi mutt, the living room of the saint and the final scene of Kanakabishekam, the background screens, beautiful and timely lighting, very balanced sound added value to the play.
Background music needs a special mention. The music, the appropriate selection of songs, the music of the instruments, especially the piece played by none another than the genius Late Sri Mandolin U Srinivasan and then the music melodies from the equally talented brother Sri.U.Rajesh touched our souls deeply. The sounds of temple bells, the flowing rivers, the divine songs, the mantras and shlokas, added to the mesmerization of the audience.
The definition of secularism touched the audience with the loud applaud. The Christian Father from the American Mission High School in Dindivanam where Young Swaminathan did his schooling, his friend who later turned to be his devotee as destiny led Swaminathan to thread the spiritual journey to become the Head of Kanchi Mutt at the young age of 13.
Beautifully written and elegantly executed by a spark of perfection in Direction by Sri Elango Kumanan and presented by SS International will definitely live in the hearts of the audience for a longer time.
Where there is a dire need, the universe conspires to make it happen. The miracles and discussions that were portrayed showcased this truth of the universe. When the economically poor woman planned her daughter’s wedding and came to seek the blessings from Periyava, miracle happens in the form of another rich devotee offering a huge sum to the mutt at the same time. The dialogues of contentment and giving back of the rich showcased that humanity still persists.
The way he interacts with the school student saying who is the VIP, his sharing of the rich village landlord with struggling farmers, accepting the produce of a poor farmer as an offering, the contribution of the Muslim brethren to the Mahamaham festival where lots of people assemble , the botany student who is brainwashed to stop brain drain and contribute to the agricultural needs of the Nation, think of the aged parents and the country and the couple who have differences of opinions in terms of devotion to God and the Saint saying that the reluctant husband is the actually right and who later on offers respects to Periyava shows that his simple living and high thinking led to harmony, respect and sheer devotion.
Amidst the 4 actors who performed as the Acharaya, the one who acted as 13 year old and the one who acted as the senior periyava made us feel that the saint himself has come alive on the stage. The other two also did an amazing job. They literally brought in the subtle moments of the saint on the stage with life.
Kudos to the make-up artists and the costume designers. They did a fabulous job doing it for more than 100 artists. The back stage support was excellent.
One thing I could say as the pitfall is the very slow movement of the script at some places making us feel that it is repeated or dragged. People falling at the feet of Mahaperiyava though was natural, it was becoming too much to watch on the stage but I guess both these things are the ask of the script itself and cannot be avoided
One other comment I heard from the audience is that Periyava worshipping the Goddess Kamakshi, performing the rituals or abhishekams would have added value. But again, I felt that the connect between the Goddess and Periyava was always there throughout though it was not explicitly shown.
Paramacharya caressing the cows was not visible to all parts of the audience. And the relevance was also not understood. That could be little more elaborated.
Despite the very few negligible things, it was a grand spectacle celebrating not only the life of Mahaperiyava but the grandeur of the Tamil Stage. It is a celebration of a lifetime of memories of a saint who touched our hearts and souls. The final scene was the most touching of all. The grand celebration of 100 years of Mahaperiyava with the grand Kanakabishekam, was touching. I have seen many people holding hands in devotion with a mist in their eyes.
Best of all was the engrossed audience who were glued to their seats with no disturbance or moving around. Without saying, the cellphones were on silent mode showing the respect the script commands.
I wish I had the names of the entire crew and cast, however, I am sure they all will have lifetime of memories having been part of this beautiful show. I was so happy to see Lavanya Venugopal and Nannu Sir on the stage with others. Kudos to SS International and especially to Sri Elango Kumanan sir, the excellent sponsors, producers and the technicians who made this possible.
May the spirit of harmony continue, may the beauty of the devotion survive, may the way of life of Hinduism coordinate with every other religion and live in a secular sense in its true meaning and May the blessings of Mahaperiyava Sri Chandrasekarendra Swami continue with all of us.