Wedding in Washington (Washingtonil Thirumanam) is a tamil play which I have been wanting to see since many years.
The play in original format is from a book from the same name . It was serialized (written form) in the 80’s in a tamil weekly called ‘Saavi’. I then did not know to read my mother-tongue but the witty illustrations that accompanied the story caught my attention. I would ask my mom to tell me the story. The story she said, was how a tambrahm wedding is conducted in Washington where sourcing things like garlands, and other indian wedding needs were difficult and the humorous situations that lead to the wedding. So, when this story was adapted as play, it was on my wishlist since long.
Kalasagaram a cultural center of twin cities staged Goodwill creations “ Washingtonil thirumanam” last evening. We started well in advance as we were aware that the Governor of AP was to be in the audience. There were lot of security checks and also we had to negotiate the mindless Hyderabadi traffic though the venue is only a few kms away
The story line like said above is how US millionaire couple Rockfellers are charmed by the customs and rituals of an Indian( read tambrahm)wedding. They are fascinated by the land of philosophy and spiritual significance. They want to witness this and so conduct an Indian wedding in Washington DC. They sponsor a chennai based middleclass family’s wedding in The US. The entire family, friends, priests, caterers, domestic help, goldsmith, florists are flown in chartered flights from India to the US. Not even an appalam making paati (papad making old lady)is spared. She along with her team lands in the US with rolling pins to roll appalams for the wedding. (This story was written in the 50’s when event management or wedding contractors were unheard of)
The story is simple, but the drama’s lifeline is the liberal dose of humorous situations and witty dialogues.
Some of the funny situations are when thousands of appalams have to be rolled out and they find a huge terrace of a skyscraper to sun-dry the appalams, the priests interview by a reporter of Washington post while doing sandhyavandanam on the banks of River potamac etc.,. The rockfellers are smitten by the nischayathartham( betrothal), jaanavasam( baarat), Thaali( mangalsutra) and she thinks they are great fashion statements.
On the day of jaanavasam (baarat) a sambandhi sandai erupts( The quarrel between groom and bride side). The groom's mama refuses to accept that there is no open car( like a horse in baraat, an open car in used for jaanavasam) to take the groom around and there is no proper filter kaapi available to drink. He refuses to drink the coffee made from milk powder and wants coffee made from cow’s milk. Mrs. Rockfeller who is watching the sandai (tiff) asks the bride’s party why cows were not brought in flight. Just one of the comical situation to show to what lengths they would go to witness a real wedding in the US.
There is more wit in the play which rises due to lingual mis-pronunciation and differences. For instance payasam(kheer) becomes poison, appalam becomes apple-ham, idli as Italy, adhirasam as sweet pizza. Aiyaswamy becomes “Hai shamy to “ Hai shame” , panju becomes punch etc
One of the highlights was when the actors descended down from the stage and the jaanavasam( baraat) went around the audience. The stage, props and some of the players made it seem so realistic. Two actors worth mentioning were Koothapiran( Natarajan) and the producer of Goodwill Kovai Padmanabhan. Excellent in the roles of Sambamurty shastrigal and the groom’s mama( who quarreled).
The two along with the actor playing paati stole our hearts and there was thunderous applause when they delivered dead pan humorous expressions and dialogues. The rest of the cast was so-so.
I found the play not worth the hype. The story was written may be in the 50’s when going to ‘Foreign land’ (Read US) was a great achievement, things like love marriage, internet and wedding management were unheard of. Some of the situations are not relevant to today’s times. Moreover since the 90’s almost every other second Indian has visited the US and there is not much glamour attached to the name US.
The actor Koothapiran and the Governor who was the chief guest are supposed to be school mates. It was interesting to hear to the 82 year old relate a few anecdotes of Kalakshetra, The way he related showed that communication is an art, those anecdotes could make another post.