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Business News/ News / Business Of Life/  The Beypore Sultan

The Beypore Sultan

Perch Collective's 'Under The Mangosteen Tree' will now play Vaikom Muhammad Basheer's favourite music

An earlier staging of the play, ‘Under The Mangosteen Tree’Premium
An earlier staging of the play, ‘Under The Mangosteen Tree’


Malayalam writer Vaikom Muhammad Basheer was known to be an incredible storyteller. When he settled down to a quiet life at Beypore in Kozhikode, visitors would call on him every day. No one was turned away. They would just move to his favourite spot—the author in his easy chair, under the mangosteen tree in his house, and the expectant audience seated around him, waiting to hear his next story.

This is the 10th year of Chennai-based theatre group Perch Collective’s journey with the late Basheer. They opened with a play in 2004, Moonshine And Skytoffee, which was based on two of Basheer’s love stories. Perch’s play Under The Mangosteen Tree (UTMT), a tribute to the iconic writer, opened in 2008, Basheer’s birth centenary year. It weaves together six of Basheer’s short stories, and includes the character of Basheer as narrator, participant and witness.

Perch’s revised UTMT, which will be staged this weekend, has two-three changes. When it premiered, it had a cast of 11; there are seven now. Plus, the play will feature some of Basheer’s favourite musical compositions in the background—Basheer loved his records, stacked in multicoloured buckets in his house; his gramophone; and his easy chair.

“He created a new idiom in Malayalam writing by breaking away from the Sanskritized version of the language and coming up with a vocabulary that was colloquial and accessible. He invented words like badukoos which could mean anything—an idiot, a fool, or anything that you wish to make of it," says Rajiv Krishnan, the director of the play.

While most of the play is in English, it contains a smattering of Malayalam to keep the flavour of Basheer’s language. The play, which touches upon different aspects of Basheer’s writing, is largely humorous in tone, tinged with sadness and satire.

Poovan Banana, one of the six stories, tells the story of a man who fancies himself as the local gangster but becomes a pawn in the hands of his wife after marriage. He tries to reassert his independence, in the process creating room for a considerable amount of repartee. Voices, the story of a soldier back from war, launches a philosophical enquiry into how human beings can be capable of such brutality. The World Renowned Nose is a rather contemporary story of the media and political attention showered on a man whose nose starts growing, drooping to his navel. Walls, which was made into a film by Adoor Gopalakrishnan, is said to be based on Basheer’s imprisonment by the British for seditious writing. In the story, the character of Basheer hears the voice of a woman named Narayani across the wall of his prison cell, and builds a relationship with her.

“We did a lot of research when we conducted a festival in Chennai to celebrate Basheer’s centenary in 2008. We spoke to several members of his family and friends. One of them told us that Basheer actually looked for Narayani after he was released but he couldn’t find her. Of course, that could be part myth," says Krishnan.

Under The Mangosteen Tree will be staged on 25-26 April, 3.30pm and 7.30pm, at Edouard Michelin Auditorium, Alliance Française of Madras, 24, College Road, Nungambakkam. Tickets, 200, available on and For details, call 9445961425.

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Published: 23 Apr 2015, 09:57 PM IST
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