Monday, December 2, 2013

Washington-il thirumanam

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.

Although, it did not meet  my expectations( may be i had great expectations)  the hall echoed with laughter for every second dialogue and the huge hall was packed beyond capacity.  It was heartening to see that theatre had not suffered a huge setback due to TV and internet. A huge clap for people like Kovai paddu and Koothabiran( an alumni of Chennai’s beasant theosophical school, Kalakshetra) who are still keeping the art alive.  Both the actor are live wires and it was surprising to know that they both were 82 year old( amazing energy levels!).

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.


  1. Wow - that is one "ancient" play. Didn't know that even now some group stages it.

    Yes, it was set in a time and context which is now long gone. I suppose it won't resonate in today's times, but back then it was a huge rage.

    1. Previously, i heard it was staged in the 1970's by kalasagaram (in hyderabad) after a gap of nearly 3 decades they had staged y'day.

      I narrated the dramatized version to my mom yesterday, and she felt the book's description would evoke laughter for any age and at any time. She felt it was a timeless piece and may be the drama version was abridged due to time constraints. or maybe I should have gone with less expectations. Thank you, Ramesh.

  2. I remember watching this play in the tv as a kid. Though I don't recollect scene by scene I cn relate to some of them.
    As mentioned, it might not be relevant today though classics are worth watching for their witty presentation and our connect to the roots.

    1. Welcome vaishnavi:). yes, classics are worth watching , it takes us to a bygone era. Thank you.

  3. I have read the book. I have seen the drama. Loved both of them. The conversations are unforgettable. Even today we enjoy about it. I think, by photo finish, the book is slightly better than the drama. The book describes the scenes in detail. For example, the conversation and the feelings of the sastrigals when they boarded the plane at the Madras Airport. This is only one example.

    1. Oh, you have read and watched . That's nice. This was my longtime wish.

      yes, i believe in the book, the appalam becomes appalam saucers when they dry and fly from the terrace. All those situations were missing in the drama. Thank you, SG.

  4. Well, while the commenters above me know about this play, I am the ignorant one! Have never heard or read about it! The hype and falling below expectations remind me of the Pakistani Plays which were a rage in North when we were kids. I happened to saw a part of one play on TV a few years ago and I wondered about all the hullabaloo about these plays then!

  5. This is a tamil play, so obviously you would'nt know shilpa. It is a humorous play but some of the situations are not relevant to today's time. If adapted to today's times then it will loose its originality. yeah, you are right aobut the hype sometimes, it does'nt meet our expectations.

  6. Tamil plays especially comedies are really good, even if they seem outdated now. I have not seen this play nor read it. But i can understand you excitement. I remember reading Appu Sami and Seeta Patti serial which used to come in Ananda Vicatan or some such tamil magazine those days. It used to be very funny.
    Anytime, Tamil comedies are fun, and Hindi comedies are really useless. Even now we enjoy tamil comedies in channels like Aditya channel and other such channels.

  7. Yes, i am aware of Appu swami and Seeta patti, though i could'nt read Tamil those days. They came in comic format. Thank you, Rama:)