Moonshine and Skytoffee – A Magic Lantern Play

I knew whom Vaikom Muhammed Basheer was. He was a well known Malayalam writer of yesteryears. But I had no idea that he was such a great dude. If the Magic Lantern group’s play named Moonshine and Skytoffee had a standing ovation, one significant part of the applause goes to the writer Vaikkom Mohammed Basheer. Basheer’s two short stories, Love Letter [Premalekhanam, 1943] and The Cardsharp’s Daughter [Muchcheettukaikkaarantaey Makal, 1951] were intelligently combined together into one play and they both had bold themes. If he could be such a radical thinker then, I am sure his works must make a worthy read.

While I hate to re-tell the story in a review, this one should be an exception for not many may get a chance to see the play for themselves. Moonshine and Skytoffee revolves around the lives of two pairs of lovers and father of a bride. The story is set in Kerala during the 1940’s. Kesavan Nair[Bala], a 20ish geeky guy falls in love with his house owner’s daughter Saramma[Aparna]. While Saramma is a christian, Kesavan Nair is a Hindu. Similarly, in their neighbourhood, in a Chai shop, Zainaba[Taruna] a Muslim girl, falls in love with a pickpocket ‘Mandan’ Muthapa [Jagan a.k.a Vijay TV fame Nandu]. Zainaba’s dad ‘OttaKannan’ Pokker is a street juggler who fools people into his three card poker game and makes a living with that.

While Kesavan Nair hesitates and finally pleads to Saramma to love him, Saramma makes a deal of twenty rupees a month to love him. Kesavan Nair who is deeply in love with her agrees to the deal. His salary being just 40 bucks a month. Saramma seems to question him too much about their lifestyle if they are married and also extracts the huge sum of twenty bucks without any consideration to Kesavan Nair’s financial trouble. She challenges the concept of love. Meanwhile, ‘Mandan’ Muthapa who is a sidekick of ‘OttaKannan’ Pokker turns back on him one day challenging his three card trick and also vows to marry his daughter Zainaba. What happens finally for both these lovers is told in a rib tickling manner that would make you feel good for the rest of the day.

Everyone has convincingly become the character themselves and it really amazes me to see such talented actors not getting noticed in the Kollywood. I am simply stuck to mention any one of the character first. If I wish to mention Aparna as Saramma as the best, I recollect Hans Koushik as ‘OttaKannan’ Pokker , not to mention the versatile Bala and multi-faceted Jagan. These guys are simply at their best. Be it the way Saramma asks for a Dungudoo bag or how Kesavan Nair gets frenzy over the name Skytoffee or how Mandan (meaning Idiot) displays the pickpocketing technique or even the first act where OttaKannan Pokker teaches Muthapa to smoke with the nostrils the actors executed the job well. The best part was the play was so grippingly comical that two hours rolled over so easily.

Hats of Rajiv Krishnan who has directed this play. Rajiv has done a lot of research and good work to weave both these stories together into a play. He deserves to be noted. Also the slick simple sets that brought out the rural Kerala as it was in the 1940’s was a big plus. Just a tea shop and cardboard which wad made into the lead actor’s house were the only sets in the play.

This is one monster of a humor play. A must watch if you are Chennai, because rarely we get such nice stuff like this.

P.S : This play is on stage in Alliance Francaise, College Road. The last shows are at today. With popular demand, they might have it going for a few more weeks. If you need to get in touch with the play troupe, here’s the number, Rajiv 98410 99435 and Surya 98840 37938.

9 thoughts on “Moonshine and Skytoffee – A Magic Lantern Play

  1. I really hope they extend the play. How does one get the tickets for the show. Do you mind sharing the cost too please.

    Love your blogs.

  2. One more trivia on Basheer, Mammooty won his national award for the movie Mathilukal based on Basheer’s story. It is about a prisoner falling in love with a female prisoner across the wall, by only talking to her

  3. I agree with you. I saw the play. I thourogly loved the day, with my wife & son, clapping happily. (a standing ovation). I just want to add that Zainaba, structured to be more a ‘non-speaking’ charecter also had done a great job through very expressive eyes and her smile.

    And wow! the whole venue was done up so very nicely – authentic. At the end they served excellent snax too.

  4. This play was one of the best Entertainment show I have witnessed in the recent past.Only thing I can compare this is the movie KAAKA KAAKA from the recent memory and 50 FIRST DATES which gave me such a satisfaction and entertainment.

    Having done an acting course with BALA I wasnt too surprised to see his terrific performance.Still it was greatly heartwarming to know that I have been to a apt person to learn..

    All the others surprised me to no less extent by the quality of their performances.Aparna was unbeliveably good and others simply showed that they are all great potentials who are waiting to explode.

    To convert a short story into a stage play itself is challenging.So obviously combining two needs great skill and ability.Kudos to the director Rajiv Krishnan.!

    I Just called Bala up and found out that all are seasoned stage artistes to the tune of 4 to 5 yrs experience.

    They might have a couple of more shows coming up and bala has promised me that he will inform me.If that happens(anyway I muyself would be looking for the next show)I will let u all know through GURU

    A Thing to be noted is many of the characters are done by more than one person ie different timing of shows would feature different set of artistes,This only shows the talent available…to be tapped more..and more..

    Note — Bala has acted in movies like TAJMAHAL,MAAYAN.
    He is a student of NATIONAL SCHOOL Of DRAMA- Delhi
    Very recently he directed a play called ANDHIVELI- which was also a rousing hit,staged in the same Alliance Franchise,involving great actors from koothupattarai like JAYAKUMAR(The face you see in INDIRA FLAT PROMOTERS AD).

    gnanamani gunasekaran

  5. Hey Mani,

    Thanks for that lovely note on the play. I know you enjoyed it well.

    Nice trivia on bala. He seemed to be a very experienced dude. Great job by him and Aparna.

    Do let me know about those extra shows and I shall post it here.

  6. Hi all,

    The play Moonshine and Skytoffee was showcased in Bangalore last week April 10,2005. This was a fantastic play with fantastic actors. The director has also done a fantastic job.

    It was a rainy evening here in Bangalore, but it was housefull at Rangashankara.

    One must also pay tribute to Basheer for his fantastic work. His stories seem to have a magical effect.

    We at Bangalore wish to see more of Magic Lantern !!!

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