He twirled on the glass shards of anarchy

Joy Mathew

An eminent writer-actor pays tribute to his artistic shepherd K K Madhusudhanan, universally known as Madhu maash; a theatre artist nonpareil unsurpassed in his being wedded to the idea of untrammelled freedom and uncontaminated by the verdigris of party affiliations

K K Madhusudhanan {1948-2022} / Photo: P Viswanathan

Madhu maash taught me outside of the campus. I refer to the affectionately abbreviated name of school master K K Madhusudhanan. As often occurs proper learning happens outside the portals of education!

In the chronicles of history Madhu maash’s contribution to the socio-cultural landscape of Kerala will be etched through his navigating a novel stretch of political theatre. When Malayali stage was dominated by the streams of academic and ethnic styles of dramaturgy, he birthed a third path effulgent with creativity, redolent of life and its lived politics.

My first encounter with Madhu maash was as a seventeen-year-old college student. Pavithran from Wayanad, a painter-classmate, was responsible for this. The name of the artiste-activist was already familiar to me through the reports of atrocities perpetrated on detenus in police camps during the Emergency.

The writer and maash exchange pleasantries / Photo: Arun C S

Maash became famous in the world of theatre after the staging of “India 1974.” After viewing his “Padayani,” which was performed in Kozhikode, I extirpated my concept of drama, which I had cultivated till then.

The veneration that I felt towards the progenitor of “Padayani,” led to my becoming a regular visitor to his residence in St. Vincent’s Colony. Those days I used to strut around as the best actor in college theatre competitions. His choosing me for playing the chief protagonist of the Buddha in ‘Chudalakkalam’ smote at this overweening pride of preening myself as a consummate performer.

Under his tutelage, he instilled in me a sense of discrimination to realise the limits of my artistic capabilities and to overcome it. Subsequently, for Janakeeya Saamaskaarika Vedi, I performed as Pavel in Maxim Gorky’s ‘Mother,’ on many stages. ‘Julius Caesar’ by Shakespeare, Camus’ ‘Caligula’, Badal Sircar’s ‘Spartacus’, were but some of our combined endeavours; the travels and the nights of hardships we endured then!

The writer shares a lighter moment with Madhu maash on the twin celebration of the latter’s 70th birthday and the 40th anniversary of John Abraham’s Amma Ariyaan / Photo: Arun C S

He it was, who re-oriented the direction of reading and way of thinking of our circle of like minds, and also to grasp issues Politically. Boldly declaring the non-negotiable nature of a freedom which he embraced made him bid farewell to the stifling confines of institutionalised politics. Unlike others, he desisted from comfortably making convenient bed on offer, or donning saffron. On the contrary, he twirled on the glass shards of anarchy.

Most often, it blossomed into a celebration or depiction of freedom through a solo performance, soapbox oratory or terukkuttu. These endeared him to Kooyikkodan audiences. With Madhu maash’s departure the curtain might have come down on such one-man resistance.

Those who knew him intimately understood that he hugged freedom ecstatically. This, in turn made him intoxicate us through imbibing the writings of Dostoevsky, Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam. Youth affords an opportunity to choose diverse vistas of life. Befriending mash in that period of my life was a boon that has resulted in my current avatar. Through instilling a fierce craving for freedom in people like me, he made us capable of draining to the lees the bitter cup of life that was our lot to suffer.

The portrait of the artiste as a young theatre director / Photo: K B Satheesh Kumar

Madhu maash essayed the character of Gauthaman in the P A Backer-helmed movie Sanghagaanam, in which Sreenivasan played the chief protagonist. The role of a pallbearer of the slain Gauthaman towards the end of the film was the debut of my career in cinema is not known to many, least of all to me. With the wealth of hindsight, I dawn into an epiphany that what I bore then was more a legend than mortal flesh, which renders my grief irrelevant.

{Original text of the Malayalam version published in the edit page of the Mathrubhumi daily of March 20, 2022}

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