Remember the ubiquitous simpleton who walked out of his village, and the screen,
straight into our hearts? Life was fairly simple for this guy, except for the
odd rich girl whose parents would do anything to make his life miserable. Dilip
Kumar played him often, and our own Chalam pretty much lived it. Well, the news
is that such lovable simpletons have had to wake up to the bleaker truths of life.
The landlord isn't the only pestilent creature in his life, anymore. So what if
the silver screen refuses to acknowledge this reality, but in passing? Padamati
Gaali, staged at Ravindra Bharathi, drove the point home pretty adequately.
What's more, staged by the Ongole Spandana Theater Company, this ticketed play
had a packed audience sitting through the four-and-a-half-hours on its premier.
Evoking pathos and pleasure, the play in simple Telugu made the audience sympathetic
to the state of farmers in rural Andhra. Patibandla Ananda Rao has handled the
theme admirably as he brings out the nature of life in general in the Prakasam
district. No supply of power and water, dry lakes and parched fields worry them
on the one hand, while they also strive to uphold their customs, marriages, ethics,
etc. The issues are endless, and these people are finding it an uphill task to
maintain the delicate equilibrium of such a life. Most of them hope against hope,
while some find an ironic solution in the poison that is supposed to rid their
crops of the pests. The lure of modern life has them testing the Dubai waters,
at steep costs.
Now the question is whether the picture of a utopian farmer, resting under a giant
tree after a hard day's work as his wife serves him a delicious meal and his children
play around in verdant fields, is just a memory. The play isn't about to venture
into giving answers, as it ends with a farmer standing in the middle of the stage,
flummoxed, staring into the void.