Today, I had the opportunity to attend a staging (tickets had to be booked for free in advance) of the Tamil play Deivathul Deivam (loosely translated as “A God within a God”) at the Music Academy in Chennai. The play is a biography of Mahaperiyavar (Sage of Kanchi), Jagadguru Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swamigal, who was considered by his disciples to be a God who walked on earth. This is the 34th screening of this play by the producer’s SS International Live. It was written and directed by Elango Kumanan, and the stage effects were done by the award-winning Thotta Tharani. With over a hundred actors on stage and many more supporting off stage, this play was a formidable effort by the crew and they delivered a brilliant one. Don’t miss this play when it plays next in your city.
It is not an easy task to make a biography of Mahaperiyavar as an enormous volume of works have been written and discussed about the life of his holiness. The discourses of Mahaperiyavar over the many decades have been documented in the classic book(s) “Deivathin Kural” (Voice of God) and this play is inspired by the events mentioned there.
The play starts with blessings from the current pontiff of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, Sri Vijayendra Saraswathi Swamigal. The story takes us to the birth of Swaminathan on the 20th of May 1894, the display of the intelligence of Swamination in his childhood, his schooling in the Arcot American Mission High School, the influence of his teachers there, a badminton game with his friend, his encounter with a grandma selling black plums, and the eventual ascending as the 68th pontiff of the Kamakoti Peetham in 1907. It moves on to the early tours of the Swamigal, the local community’s initial hesitancy to accept him as their acharya, his continued learning of sacred texts, frequent discussions with learned scholars across faiths, his affection and support for the poor and downtrodden who saw it as miracles (which they were), his preaching of love and compassion, and to his tour across the country. Even though everyone loved and worshipped him unconditionally and was waiting for his words Swamigal was not known for being autocratic – the play highlighted a few examples of his people management skills, especially spotting and grooming talent, and his administrative skills. We also see glimpses of how he could’ve built a strong team of disciples who helped him to carry out his vast charitable and religious works. The play ends with the Kanakabhishekam of Mahaperiyavar, a grand ceremony that was attended by thousands of people from all over India.
Almost everything about the play was done very well. Each and every one of the actors was perfect for their role, they were well-trained and they did great. The three actors who played Mahaperiyavar at his various ages were brilliant – 13 to 52 years was played by Deeraj Mohan, 52 to 72 years by EMS Murali and 72 to 100 years by Mr Vasudevan. When many of us think of Mahaperiyavar and visualize his image, we see an old holy man in a saffron robe, holding a wooden danda and wearing a leaf garland as a crown. Mr Vasudevan brought to life this image of Swamigal effortlessly on stage, it was mesmerizing to watch and the entire audience for a few minutes almost felt the presence of Mahaperiyavar in spirit in the auditorium.
I was deeply moved by the play Deivathul Deivam. It is a beautiful tribute to a great man who dedicated his life to spreading compassion and serving others.