Revival of play on Guru Raghavendra 31/7/2015

Some in the audience  watching  the play  ‘Sri Raghavendrar’, by Vittal Narayanan, presented by ParimalachariyarCreations &Arts     in NaradaGanaSabha, Alwarpet  recently   wouldn’t have been aware that a play   –‘Mantralaya Mahan’   was  first  staged nearly 30 years ago, its  script  was written  by  Sri Santanam, who also acted as Raghavendra. The play which was based on the life history  of the saint had  not only   become immensely popular( staged 250 times) but inspired  Rajanikanth, then an upcoming actor to subsequently  play the role of  the saint   in the film  ‘Sri Raghavendra’  which again was a great hit with Chennaiites.

Now, after a  long  gap the play has been revived  with  significant changes, in the cast where all are dubbing artists who are devotees  of Raghavendra   as well as in the script.E.M.S.Murali , son of Sadakshavan who was a member of T.K.Shanmugam’s troupe  conceptualized the play. It is interesting to know  the motivation  for staging this play by the group  consisting of 45 dubbing artists   who go  to Mantralaya every year  on a pilgrimage  after  observing a  ‘vratha ‘ for 48 days. They wear a thulasi mala and after reaching Mantralaya  give  the coconut  they have taken  along  with them  to the priest at the Moola Brindavana, and  receive it  after they complete three days of seva here. Once back home, they   wind up their vratha   after partaking  prasadam  prepared with it.

The  group over the past  few years  had been toying with the idea of staging the play  on Raghavendraand when they approached Santanam to  write a script,  he expressed his inability as he felt age was catching up. His daughter Chitra had recommended  Vittal Narayan’s  name   as he was known  to be not only a staunch devotee of Raghavendra  from his childhood but had  rich experience  in the entertainment industry   as well, having done  quite a number of tamil feature films and teleserials as project director. He was contacted immediately    to write the script and Vittal says   by the blessings  of SriRaghavendra  he was able to complete it in less than a fortnight.    The   two hour play   begins with a prayer  being offered to  Sri Raghavendra by the protagonist  and  one of his disciples watching him is curious to know the life history of the saint. The former starts with an explanation  of  Sri Raghavendra’s earlier births  as  Sangukarna( Parivaradevatha of Vayu deva),  Prahalada (during Narasimhaavatara), Bahaleega (during Mahabharata war)  and Vyasatheerthawho was Raja guru for king Krishnadeva Raya .Born as  Venkatanadha, later known as Raghavendra, we find some of the  miracles he performed  included in the  play which ends   with RaghavenrdraSwamy’s Brindavanapravesa and  Sir Thomas Munro’s conversation  with him  thereafter.

N Meera Raghavendra Rao

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