Shraddha, the theatre people have partnered with AIM for Seva and Alchemy Kids (where my son has been going for theatre programs) to present a new play from today for four days in Narada Gana Sabha Hall (Alwarpet, Chennai). The play is titled SMILE, written and directed by Vijay Viswanathan of Alchemy Kids.
The story is about how joining a home “Ananda Illam” for the mentally challenged as it’s manager gives purpose and happiness to the protagonist played by Vijay Viswanathan. Few of the actors are from AIM for Seva homes itself, including them everyone on stage have done a fine job. Excellent performance by actors who played the role of Vignesh and Dipankar. It’s not an easy story to act, to bring out the true feelings as experienced by mentally challenged without stereotyping is difficult, which SMILE has done effortlessly.
The Protagonist “Ashok” who is middle-aged post graduate man separated from his wife, who wanders from job to job in search of the “soulful” smile. His only happiness is listening to his daughters melodious songs (fine selection by Music Director R.Giridharan) every day before sleep, but his sleep is disturbed by unknown fears haunting him everyday – this was shown poetically through black dressed ghosts dancing (RAACK Academy of Dance) around his bed.
I liked the scene where Ashok is offered the job of manager of home by founder trustee played by T.D.Sundarajan, feeling sorry for the inmates he says he will be unable to take up the role. After the founder convinces him, Ashok relents and takes up the job hesitatingly. Seeing them live their life on their own terms with their own unique talent, he begins to understand them and in the process his own self. On stage, the set for the big banyan tree especially in night lighting was great, kudos to stage manager Mohanbabu.
SMILE is not an entertainment style performance, but an attempt to be an inclusive theatre play to make audience see people with Mental Challenges in the true light for who they are.