On a cold day in January 1925, P.J. Antony was born. Ten years later, sitting on a makeshift platform one evening, the theatre artist in Antony was born when he wrote and directed his first play. Ten more years into his eventful life, the rebel in Antony was born when he lead the Royal Indian Navy Mutiny from the front against the mighty British Empire. These are some of the lesser-known chapters in the life of actor, director, music director, activist and Leftist P.J. Antony. Many remember him as the actor who won south India the first Bharat Award. But very few know that Antony was one of the few who could be called multi-faceted.
Celebrating the life of this legend, Chilanga Floating Theatre has been performing the play ‘Inquilabinte Makkal, Maraviyude Maruperu Maranam.’ Successfully running from one stage to another, this two-hour play opens up the life of P.J. Antony. “He was a rebel, a freedom fighter a multi-instrumentalist, a lover, son, father, the one who was thrown out of his own home, the man who fought the social hierarchy and the man who fought hunger and poverty miserably. The play portrays the legend from all these aspects. This is not just a tribute to one of the theatrical geniuses of Kerala, but is also a reminder for all who forgot Antony,” says Bichoos Chilanga, the director and writer of the play.
The play is based on the book P. J. Antony, Jeevitham Oru Aahvanam written by Chacko D. Anthikkad. From its inception, the play had evoked some controversies. Antony’s family has questioned the authenticity of the screenplay but Bichoos Chilanga says the play was solely adapted from Chacko’s book and there is no need for controversies.
“Antony was a man on a mission. He was a lone fighter and lived all his life on his own terms. So dealing with a story of a rebel is something we had to be extra careful about. Before reading the book, I had no idea about Antony as a person. Like the majority, the only thing I knew was his role in the national award-winning film Nirmalyam, in which he played an oracle. We had to study a lot about him and it was a tough task. It was not easy to study the life of someone like him. He started his rebellion against everything that challenged the life of the oppressed,” reflects Bichoos. The play also looks at the socio-cultural-political issues from 1925 to 2018.
The play tries to portray Antony in a more genuine way. Despite his monumental achievements in acting or the recognition he had gained as an artist, it would probably be more accurate to describe Antony as a cultural rebel more than anything else. It also talks about the way he was deeply opposed to class injustice and developed a systematic understanding of the capitalist system.
As the play progresses, four different actors play the role of antony, including Bichoos. “We are getting a positive response from the audience. We also conduct discussions after each performance where the audience can come up with feedback and opinions,” he concludes....