I am now not able to recollect as to where I got this from. But I can still vividly recall my emotion when I first picked this book up at some second hand bookshop.
The exterior was nothing but a drab cloth binding but the inside revealed several treasures. The book is basically a register in which there is a handwritten manuscript of Pammal Sambanda Mudaliar’s Kaadalar Kan. I must look up his Nataka Medai Ninaivukal and see in which year he wrote the play and who first acted in it. But that book, though a treasure trove of information, is a nightmare if you want to source anything in a hurry. It has no index and so any search means ploughing through the whole book and its many repetitive phrases.
This mss is not in the great playwright’s hand for it was copied in 1956 for use by the Dramatic Society of the Mercantile Bank of India. It is most likely that the writing is that of PM Parthasarathy, organiser of the Society. What makes it valuable is that there is a handwritten acknowledgement from Sambanda Mudaliar of having received royalty for the staging. His handwriting is really just a scrawl. I wondered if this could be really that of a man who churned out hundreds of plays, a history of the Suguna Vilasa Sabha and a brief autobiography, besides numerous articles. It was Randor Guy who told me that Mudaliar was quite blind by the 1950s, a fact corroborated by his autobiography. His signature is more confident.
Those were days when play scripts had to be approved by the police before every staging. A throwback to the Raj and later brought back into vogue thanks largely due to the satires of the Dravidian movement, this practice was according to Karthik Bhatt, given up only in 2013! The script had to be accompanied by a synopsis in English, no doubt for the benefit of the British police officers. This manuscript too has it. It also has the application to the police and their permission.
From the papers in the book it is evident that this play was staged on November 1, 1956 at the Raja Annamalai Manram. There is a letter from Raja Sir MA Muthiah Chettiar agreeing to grace the event.
The mss must have belonged to someone passionate about theatre for it has, pasted as a frontispiece, an autographed photo of Avvai TK Shanmugam, though he has nothing to do with this play. This is dated October 9, 1956.
The story is based in the Mughal era, with a lot of Rajput intrigue. It has its humour as well, and all’s well that ends well.
One of these days I will donate this book to the Roja Muthiah Research Library. Till then I will gloat over it.
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