A still from the rehearsal
A still from the rehearsal

Jai Bhim: Dalit political play 68854512 to stage on Jan 7 & 8 in Chennai

The play uses the likeness, beauty and power of the natural elements- fire, water, air and soil to narrate incidents driven by societal evils which were driven by casteism.

CHENNAI: 68854512, a Dalit political Tamil play written and directed by Prasanna Ramaswamy, in collaboration with Chennai Art Theatre, is set to take the stage on January 7 and 8 at Medai, Alwarpet.

The play uses the likeness, beauty and power of the natural elements- fire, water, air and soil to narrate incidents driven by societal evils which were driven by casteism.

Speaking to DT Next, the director of the play Prasanna says, “We are going to be talking about how these elements are free of prejudice and yet the marginalised are denied access to water, lands and so on. The play aims to address several injustices faced by the Dalit community through an Ambedkarite character.”

Prasanna Ramaswamy, Director-playwright
Prasanna Ramaswamy, Director-playwright

Decoding the meaning of the title she says the ‘68’ pays homage to the Keezhvenmani Massacre that happened in 1968 where 44 Dalits were burned alive in their homes. “This is where the elements come in. Fire is represented in literature as a life-giver, in this particular incident it became a tool to destroy lives,” she says.

‘85’ remembers the Karamchedu Massacre in 1985 of Andhra Pradesh, while ‘45’ marks the percentage of deaths in Tamil Nadu due to manual scavenging, and ‘12’ is for the 12 acres of land which was given to Adi Dravidars by the British during the Colonial period. “However, they do not own these lands and it was either encroached or taken from them by not just the upper caste individuals but also the Government itself,” she adds.

The play is going to have a lot of music and movement apt for the theme and tone of the play. “There is no hero, heroine, or protagonist. But the entire ordeal is staged on the perception of a young Ambedkarite man, played by Divakar Ravi. As the play progresses, you are able to see a vision and the paradigm of this individual,” she says.

Talking about the writing process she says, “I’ve written several parts of the play while few others have contributed to it.” She says the play is influenced by the works of Dalit writers like Ravi Kumar, Challapalli Swaroopa Rani, Sasi Kumaran and lots more.

The play is packed with scope for innovative set designs. Are there going to be any? She says, “I don’t prefer elaborate set designs because I follow a post-modern style of theatre and I want my actors to take the centre stage and utilise the space.”

On asking what the audience can expect from the play she says, “I don’t work on the takeaway syndrome for the play like in the West. I’m presenting a dialogue and I’m expecting a discourse. So that’s what I hope happens.”

A part of the cast and crew is a group of young actors teamed with veteran actor-dancer Anita Ratnam, well-known actor-director Nikhila Kesavan, singer-dancer Revathy Kumar, and actor Prasanna Ram Kumar and music by Anand Kumar.

Tickets are available on BookMyShow.

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