Today is World Theatre Day: 'Is disease a sin?' Thoppil Bhasi's play has relevance now
Alappuzha: "Is being affected by a disease a sin?" This question was asked by Sarojam to Dr Thomas in the play 'Aswamedham' by Thoppil Bhasi. The same question is repeated by the coronavirus positive patients nowadays. The drama is still relevant in the present days.
During the 1950s, leprosy patients in the society had suffered severe discrimination more than the COVID-19 patients among us. Even those who were completely cured of leprosy were not accepted by their family. Seeing their plight, Thoppil Bhasi penned the play, said his son and drama artist Thoppil Soman.
Though the play was adapted to a movie after five years, the play was more widely accepted, said KPAC secretary A Shajahan. KPAC staged the play for the first time on September 20, 1962 and went on performing it on over 4000 stages across India.
"Father had said that the play was inspired by a visit to his friend at leprosy hospital in Nooranad," Thoppil Soman remembered. Then the government was planning to pass a bill for arresting the leprosy patients roaming in the streets. Dr Unnithan of the leprosy hospital called Thoppil Bhasi who was an MLA then and asked, "Are criminals being arrested? Why should leprosy patients be arrested? Is a disease someone's sin?"
Thoppil Bhasi was moved by this question. He later penned the play and made the lead character ask the same question. The drama had helped make the people understand the scientific aspect of the disease rather than treating the patients like untouchables. The relevance of the play has only increased during this coronavirus season, said Thoppil Soman.