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