Sunday, December 10, 2006

The doyen of Malayalam Drama

The doyen of Malayalam Drama - Or a Saint With Name Satan.

Kerala has a lot of contradictions. To put it plainly these contradictions give Kerala its uniqueness. Here lives a saintly old man who is popularly known as Satan. The funny thing is that he himself had gladly accepted that name. This article is about that extra ordinary man. Mr. Satan Joseph was once the part and parcel of Malayalam drama in its prime time.

Not long back just before the onslaught of television, drama was so dear and near to people. They flocked to the temporary stages where drama was staged and spent whole night savoring each scene and every dialogue.

Mr. Satan Joseph is a many splendoured genius; he was an industrialist (He had a flourishing coir business with about a hundred employees). His company was in the business of production and export of coir products. Mr. Satan Joseph was elected and has functioned as the secretary of All Kerala Small Scale Coir Manufacturers’ Association.

He is a firm Congress Party loyalist and was in active politics for more than two decades (was Municipal Councilor almost for eleven years). Before retirement, Mr. Satan Joseph was an A to Z as far as Malayalam drama was concerned, Dramatist, script writer, actor and above all a drama company proprietor

The drama company he had founded (The Alleppey Theatres) has given birth to about fifty dramas. Half of them were of social themes. These plays contained strong messages for the eradication of evils prevailed in society at that time.

But “Alleppey theatres” is better known for the Bible based dramas it staged through out Kerala. It all started with “thirty silver coins” the drama was a resounding success, and has been played innumerable times throughout Kerala as well as in other states.

As a responsible artist he firmly believes that it is the duty of an artist to use his talent for the betterment of the society. His dramas based of Bible were rich in messages from the holy book. Lay men who used to see drama for entertainment spontaneously absorbed the messages all though they were not aware of it.

He was bourn in 30th January 1925 at Kanjiramchira a place near Alappuzha town. His parents were Kallupurakkal Anthrayes and Lucy Anthrayes. The grand parents of Satan Joseph were of Kochi origin and they had to migrate to Alleppey during the war time.

Kallupurakkal Thampi the grand father of Satan Joseph was a native of Kochi, he was an industrialist as well as an artist. He conducted a school for teaching a local performing drama called “Chavittu natakam”. This form of art was a very simple and interesting one in which stories from the Bible were played the dialects were of crude mixture of Tamil and Malayalam.

Mr. Anthrayes the father of Joseph was also a student in that drama school and who became a great performer in the art. The role played by him as Satan in the Bible story won many accolades. The surname Satan was thus added to his name, christening him as Satan Anthrayes. Mr. Joseph, who also was an artist, was not spared either by the public; they called him in the pet name Satan Joseph. Mr. Joseph gladly accepted the “pet name” as an ancestral possession.

Of the fifty dramas the Alleppey Theatres has staged about fifty percent was of social themes some of the most famous ones are as follows. “Anchu centu bhoomi” (5 cents of land- which pictured the feudal systems prevailed) Kadalinte makkal (Sons of the sea) (portrayed the strife of fishermen of Kerala) “Ezham swargam” (Seventh paradise, “Malanadin makkal” (children of the high ranges), Jalolsavam (featuring the life of people of the waterlogged Kuttanad), “kayar” (coir), Hiroshima etc.

Ezham swargam was the only drama he has done which was based the life of Kerala Muslims. The drama Kayar was based on the laborers engaged in the coir industry at Alappuzha. As he himself was a coir industry man, the theme was one where he was at home.

Some of the Bible dramas are as follows. “Muppathu vellikkasu” (30 silver coins), Benhur, St. Paul, Quavadis, Ten commandments, Moses, Thobias, Apostles of India, Joseph the son of Jacob etc. The drama “thirty silver coins” ran in packed crowds for many years. How many times it had been staged, no body knows as there was no time to count.

Mr. Joseph has written and published an autobiography by name “ Ente Natakanubhavangal” (My experiences with drama), which is the history of the Malayalam drama itself. The book written in simple and plain language is enough to make one understand the strains and tensions of one engaged in the field of the great performing art, that is drama.

The book a must read for any student of drama, which was published by the author himself and distributed by “Current Books” Kottayam. It is a pity that the book has not got the due attention it deserved. English translation of the same is not available.

Mr. Joseph the winner of many awards like The Kerala Governments Professional Drama Award, Chavara Award, Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy Award etc, now leads a secluded life, the death of his beloved wife Smt. Mary on March 9, 1997 was something the poor soul could not withstand. Mary has mothered eight children for him. Two of them died young.

This octogenarian, who had earned a tidy sum through his hard work, was known for his humanitarian activities. He donated liberally for noble causes. After dividing his wealth to his legal heirs he was only happy to donate his entire assets to the church. The land and buildings where “The Alleppey Theatres” once functioned is the property of the church which was given as a gift by Mr. Joseph to it whole heartedly.

To the queries regarding this sort of extra ordinary generosity, he has a simple answer, “I made all these assets spreading the preaching of the god, now in this old age I return a portion of it to him”. Noble words from a noble man, cruelly called as Satan Joseph. However people of Kerala will unanimously agree “This Satan is more lovable than any saint, but as he himself has accepted the name with joy we will continue calling him by that name.

Even though he was blessed with eight children, the absence of a male child is some thing which makes him feel sad, as there is no one to carry the “beautiful surname” bestowed on his father by the public. He got it by virtue of being the son of Satan Anthrayes, but no one to carry it to the next generation.

May God bless him and make the rest of his life a happy and contented one.


ഉറുമ്പ്‌ /ANT said...

സുഹ്രുത്തേ, മലയാളത്തിൽ ആദ്യമായി ഓൺലൈനിൽ പ്രസിദ്ധീക്കറ്റിക്കപ്പെട്ട നാടകം എന്റെ “രക്ഷകൻ” ആണെന്നു കരുതുന്നു. വായിച്ച് അഭിപ്രായമ്ം അറിയിച്ചാൽ നന്നായിരിക്കും

Anonymous said...

saithan joseph is one the great showman in malayalam drama field ever seen and the dramas he made kadalinte makkal and malanadin makkal are mega hits in those time and alleppey theatres is one of the famous troup in kerala...and still the role model for the young generation of artists like me and others.....we remember him and keeps in our heart......always...

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