Film director Ranjith steps into theatre through an adaptation of Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter
This is the first theatre venture of the director after three decades in the movies
Devasuram is celebrated for carving out one of modern Malayalam cinemas’ most glamorous and chaotic protagonists, Mangalassery Neelakantan. Since shaping the character in 1993, the name of Ranjith Balakrishnan found resonance in Kerala’s film industry with scripts such as Aaraam Thampuran and Valliettan.
Donning the directorial hat since the turn of the millennium with Ravanaprabhu, he has stayed in vogue with flicks like Paleri Manikyam: Oru Pathirakolapathakathinte Katha and Pranchiyettan & the Saint.
Over three decades after his introduction to the big screen, this School of Drama and Fine Arts graduate is brushing up on the art he’s originally trained in.
“After the completion of my course, I shifted my focus to the big screen. Whenever friends from the institute got together, we’d discuss the possibilities of doing a play but would fall into busy schedules. So, when we set up G Sankara Pillai Foundation to commemorate our beloved mentor, we decided to finally bring the plan alive,” says Ranjith, who is directing an adaptation of Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter titled Maratte Cafe at JTPAC this weekend.
Despite his long years of working with the camera, this 50-something-year-old understands the different set of challenges offered by the stage. “Directing actors with no scope for retakes in front of a live audience requires effort in a distinct way. Even the pressure of operating in the two mediums is different,” he informs.
However, what gets him excited is the thought of working with friends from the drama school. The crew behind this debut show features some popular names like Shyamaprasad, V K Prakash and Cuckoo Parameswaran. The hour-long Malayalam theatrical sees prominent theatre and movie personalities Murali Menon and Manu Jose take up the role of two hitmen who are on a mission.
So, why select this particular play as a curtain raiser? “The Dumb Waiter has a tale which can and should be told worldwide. The crime world has similarities everywhere and this plot reveals the absurdity and loneliness of criminals. They merely follow instructions without even having the space to question them,” informs the dramatist.
To establish familiarity, Maratte Cafe is set in the Pune underworld of the mid-1990s. The event will also see Ranjith’s Capitol Theater—which produced movies including Thirakadha—take an active part in the drama sphere once again after hosting Murali Menon’s one-man play Orangutan half a decade ago.
Giving strength to a theatre revival movement in Kerala, this creator of hyper-Malayali tales also hints at the possibility of original scripts for the stage in the years to come.
On January 19 from 6.30 pm.