Silappadikaram is an epic poem that centres around the journey of heroic woman Kannagi who confronts the King of Madurai over his miscarriage of justice. Considered as one of the five great Tamil epics, it weaves in the three ancient kingdoms of Cholas, Pandyas and Cheras as contemporaries. The epic poem continues to inspire modern Tamil imagination.
Prof Durgadevi has written the screenplay in French to promote multilingualism and multiculturalism. “Silappadikaram is one of the most celebrated epics in Tamil. It was first adapted into blockbuster Tamil movie Poompuhar, released in 1964. The screenplay was done by late Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi. That prompted me to write the screenplay in French. The basic idea is to make a fusion of Tamil culture and French literature,” says Durgadevi.
Durgadevi, who is passionate about languages, explains, “The popular scene of Kannagi coming to court was enacted by students of French literature last year. The scene was appreciated by the audience including the director of Alliance Française of Madras. After seeing the response, we decided to do a full-fledged play this year.”
Kannagi, the heroine of the Silappadikaram, burns down Madurai following the wrongful beheading of her husband by the Pandya king. She is pacified by Goddess Meenakshi, the reigning deity of Madurai.
Though the dialogues are in French, Durgadevi has included Tamil classical songs in the play to retain the essence of Tamil culture and tradition. “The dialogues are written for the modern era. Especially, the duets between husband and wife will attract the audience’s attention as the language of romance is so authentic,” adds Duragdevi.
Students of B.A. French Literature have played their roles to perfection. “It was completely new experience for me. I leant new words in French while delivering the dialogues. It was quite challenging for me since I’m new to acting,” says Tejaswi Prabhakar who plays the role of Kannagi.
The initiative also aims at reviving and bringing to limelight the splendour of Tamil literature in French, one of the most widely spoken European languages.
Enacting the important role of Madhavi, Maria Jeandarc Josena says, “I was chosen to play the role of Madhavi as I am a dancer. I could emote well in tune with the plot. I have become fluent in French now.”
Silappadikaram not only displays the chastity and loyalty of Kannagi towards an unfaithful husband but also asserts that justice should be delivered on time.
(The play will be staged on November 26, 2019, at 5:30 P.M. at Bertram Hall, Loyola College)