Okay! so this is a classic drama. It was first staged in 1981 and its been performed on stage around 900 times . If I were to rank all the comedy dramas that have been released so far, I would struggle to choose between "1000 Udhai.." and "Meesai Annalum Manaivi" for the number 1 spot. Both make you laugh until your stomach hurts. I have listened to "1000 udhai" on tape around 300 times and "Meesai Aanalum Manaivi" ( loosely transalated as "she is your wife even if she sports a moustache" parodying, one of the many old sayings that works on enslaving women, which goes like "even if you are married to a stone, you should treat the stone as it were your husband" )around 400 times. Lets say if one of the actors/actresses in either play is hit by a bus, I(or any of my old OSU roomies) can step in (and atleast mouth the dialogs right)
Why is 1000 Udhai so great? S.Ve.Sekhar, the writer/actor of the play, hits one of his best patches as a comedy writer in this play. He plays a carefree youth, who does not want to work. Life is so simple in his world. So uncomplicated. He is not interested in a serious career and expects his father to responsibly feed him, while he runs behind chics. The first time I got hooked on to S.Ve.Sekhar, I identified exactly with this part of Sigamani stereotype that Sekhar played in all his dramas. I seriously tell you Sigamani, the character that Sekhar plays, makes me jealous. All the 300 times I heard it in tape, he made me jealous everytime. This was the first time, I have seen this drama on stage ( and thereby fullfilling one of my life-long ambitions :-)..although it is inappropriate to mention another ambition in this blog..watching MJ perform live will remain an unfulfilled ambition). My parents, grandmother and wife accompanied me. They created such a big fuss about me spending Rs.750 on "some comedy play" and after the drama got over they didn't say a word. Every time Sekhar cracked a joke on his father, I'd look at my father and say " you see what I am saying.. this is what I have been trying to tell you for so long". Sekhar explains the reason why he resigned from his Nth job. His reasoning goes like this "I was walking in the sun selling chocolates to unknown people and suddenly a thought hit me. Why should I waste my time earning money when my father is there to take care of me? Isn't it an embarassment to work when your father is still there? Won't my friends ask me why I was working? Won't they wonder that something was wrong with my father's health and that is why he has sent me to work? I thought about all these things and I immediately resigned my job".
You know what? That is true. I am not taking about carpe diem. Every time, I am writing some code to get something working, I am thinking "why? why should compiling something without "warnings" give me uninhibited pleasure? What is wrong with me?" So far, I have told my father at least 20,000 times that he should have become a politician when he was young. Not a day goes by when I don't yell at him for being non-filthy-rich. No! Even Rich is not good enough. Rich makes you nervous, you have to protect stuff and be afraid you'd lose all that hard-earned money. Filthy rich on the other hand is richness as a result of tax payer's money. There is no pressure in that. If my dad had become some M.P or M.L.A and looted the country like every other MLA, I would have given up studies long ago and would have chased chics in expensive motorbikes. Screw the economy and the IT industry. Unfortunately he thinks my values are screwed up and I think his perspective on life is screwed up. I know why men are forced to take up jobs. I think if they had no jobs and a lot of money, they'd run behind chics and trouble 'em. So Women as part of large evil conspiracy ushered in the Industrial Revolution and created the job industry ( and then they later complained about glass ceilings just to make it sound as if the concept of working was men's idea). Working 10 hours a day and sleeping another 8 hours occupies a significant amount of time and dissuades men from chasing chics. My wife asks me, " Don't you have any ambition Bharath?". Yes! men have ambitions. But we don't want money. Money brings more work and we really don't want more work. We aim to be lazy and do nothing all day for the rest of our lives. If earning a lot of money gets us there, then we will do it. We want to become CEO's statesmen, senators, lawmakers. All for what? So that we can become filthy rich and we(or our children) can laze around like a bum. CEO is more like a transitionary phase. I'll tell it to all my women readers. Don't let men kid you around with "I am serious about my career" kind of crap. Your dude is building a career nest so that he can sleep in it. Spending a life lazing around is the ultimate ambition ( retirement is the fullfillment of that ambition, when you are too old to enjoy it) for every man. That Sigamani could do that without being so filthy rich irks me and makes me idolize him.
The beauty about "1000 Udhai" is the dialog flow in the first 40 minutes. It flows in a rocket like speed with jokes competing against each other to exit the dialog pipeline and escape into the audience. The audio cassette will not have the first 15 minute sequence, which is only available in video or on-stage. The actors start the drama on a "put on" sad note mistaking it for a serious drama (then in the 80's serious dramas were aired on Tuesdays at 7:30..now its aired round the clock) and Sekhar drives them away to go and dress up for the Nala-Damayanti historical drama, which in-turn goes kaput because his father comes on stage and beats him up. In the audio casst, the drama begins at this point- i.e from the point where Sekhar comes home, still in his historical dress, to face the music of his father. There is some girl's father (Vajravelu) who is also present in the house to complain about Sigamani's flirtations with his married daughter. The joke riot speeds up from this point to unbelievable proportions. Until the "donation collector" Anjey-venki guy comes up with his "jillu jikku,pumpu, thambu, dumukku" bit. At that time you are laughing so bad that Sekhar takes pity on you and slows down his stuff.
I really missed watching this drama along with my Ohio State roomies. We practically talked to each other in drama dialogs. Each of us had listened to almost all Sekhar/Crazy Mohan dramas hundreds of times. Stuff like " aathu enga aaya", " sir first class phamily storeey sir!!" ( Satellite Samiyar) , "athu vada naatu prechanai engalukku thevai illai" ( 1000 udhai), " Vijiiii my sweet little potatoe daughter" ( Kaatulai Mazhai), "Kulikarthu illaya..very good policy"(Kaatula Mazhai) were spoken as part of our regular conversation.
Yesterday, "1000 Udhai" was enacted fully, from the mistaken sad-drama scene. The cast has changed considerably ( well.. its been 24 years). Sigamani's father ( You want to know his name.. :-) ..its Viswanathan. Now as a trivia guess who is the fellow who gives him the "recommendation letter" ?) and Vajravelu are the only old faces. The blind Senapathy role in the historical goof-off Nala-Damayanti was then played by Manager Seenu. He is now missing. The "papli, komli" guy is missing. Most of all Sunda, Sekhar's right hand dude is missing. The sad thing for me was that I already knew the dialog flow so well. I could not help but notice, some glaring omissions by the actors. Sometimes they screwed up and then adjusted on-the-fly. It was painful to see some new actors butcher the smooth flow of the drama. Sekhar, having done this 900 times, himself screwed up in a couple of places. Some punch lines were just forgotten or abandoned ( Oh! man the way he jumped lines on the Pannaiyar-Pannaiyar's wife would have bought tears in the eyes of a drama purist).
Sekhar's dramas have declined in quality after Sunda's death. His later dramas have become more political and less funny. Even this drama was polluted with some Jayalalitha dialogs. Reminding us that now Sekhar is now very close to the Chief Minister and quickly becoming a force in the AIADMK party. He himself says so in the drama. Although I love Sekhar's old dramas, I have never liked the man himself. He seems too much of a narcissist. Too anal. He only cares about two things (a) himself (b) money. During his visits to Columbus, Ohio, I was dissapointed by the way he staged "Periappa" and "Alwa" back to back and ransoming the audience for more money. Ofcourse the audience made fun of him because after all his pro-tamil speeeches he couldn't get his daughter to sing, one single Tamil prayer song. The way he ill-treats his co-artists is also evident in the way he abuses them onstage (in the pretext of telling a dialog) if one of his co-artists miss a punch line. Poor Astrologer Chidambaram was called "moodhevi" ( and that too after getting a dozen P>Chidamabaram reference related jokes) and that too not so subtly by Sekhar, for missing a (rather important) dialog.
In the end he put the national anthem and thanked the audience for standing up patiently when the anthem was played and requested them to support theatre dramas. All that was good but somehow you tend to get a feeling that man so talented would have done more justice to his drama field if he was less ambitious ( politically that is). He almost seems like he doesn't care about the quality of his dramas. "1000 udhai" is still interesting because it was written by a Sekhar, who cared a lot and was more dedicated to his work, than the Sekhar who now mouths the dialogs to just make a fast buck.