What does IAS stand for? Indian Administrative Service, is the right answer.
But it also means Indian Ayah Services. And you will laugh well because you are probably aware of this service or have seen it run in your family.
The ‘ayah service’ was at the heart of a Thamizh play called ‘Virus’ staged at Bhavans on Monday evening as part of the Bhavans’s drama festival.
The auditorium was full fifteen minutes before the curtain went up. Attendance for the plays at this fest has been big.
‘Virus’ is all about the lives of seniors whose sons and daughters are in the USA and how the seniors are often given a air-ticket to New Jersey or to California to be with their wards with the express purpose of baby sitting, washing the dishes and cooking. And as a bonus, they get to attend kutcheris in Cleveland or look around Disneyland or get wet at the Niagara Falls on the weekend.
This is not a new social development that P. Muthukumaran’s play harps on but it provides enough fodder to create fun situations to tickle the audience and pack some bitter realities of life between the laughs and change of scenes.
Muthukumaran happily bases his story in the heart of Mylapore which obviously is the world where the IAS reigns happily.
But ‘Virus’ is below-average fare – actors stood in a line and reeled off their dialogues sans much acting really, scenes kept changing every minute, the light moments shone like a light bulb at the end of its life and much of the time was used to preach about Hinduism and Hindus, God and prayer and to take potshots at people like Kamal Haasan and anti-Sabarimala activists.
‘Virus’ is a good example of the virus that afflicts much of popular Thamizh theatre. A virus that keeps its patients sick over many cycles.
But when you reward such plays with prizes and hail them on stage, this form of theatre seems to celebrate mediocre stuff.