Farmer in the Hell: Moothor Makes it Loud & Clear

Moothor, a politically charged solo performance written, directed and performed by KV Ganesh, extends solidarity to the farmers’ protests in India.

April 16, Friday. It was a beautiful evening at the Slow Cafe, Thrissur. Peels of thunder had started to crash down the darkening sky, bringing in some much-needed relief from the scorching heat. Rain lashed down even as KV Ganesh, the well-known theatre person based in Thrissur, started his solo performance, ‘Moothor’ (The Elder) in the small compound of Slow Cafe. Ganesh’s voice rose over the rain, speaking of the travails of the farmer and the long history of agitations that shaped the resistance of the downtrodden communities of not just Kerala, but all over India. 

‘Moothor’ is a politically charged solo performance written, directed and performed by Ganesh, in support of the ongoing Farmers’ Protest against the infamous Farm Acts passed by the Indian Parliament in September 2020. The farmers of India have been on the road since then, waging a relentless battle against the draconian laws that would undoubtedly deliver the death blow to the entire agricultural sector of India. “This is my tribute to the agitating farmers,” points out Ganesh, whose theatre practice has always been marked by his staunch political standpoints. 

Thus spake the leafy branch 

Designed to be performed anywhere without any special lighting or sound equipment or music, ‘Moothor’ makes references to the campaigns led by Ayyankali, the great social reformer who fought for the rights of the downtrodden communities of Kerala. The only property Ganesh used was a leafy branch, denoting the verdant earth cultivated by the farmers. The costume was also unassuming yet to-the-point. He was supported by Francis Chirayath, another theatre practitioner based in Thrissur. 

Though Ganesh is known for his directorial work, with the Thrissur-based theatre group Rangachethana, he is also a gifted actor himself, having performed quite a number of solo performances that highlighted a range of issues. He had performed at the NH 47 as part of a protest against the Toll Booth at Palyekkara that had raged a couple of years ago. ‘Karinkaliyattam,’ was another street performance based on the Kaali – Darika concept that he performed in the streets of Thrissur. ‘Pennudal,’ (The Female Body) was another street theatre that focussed on the commodification of the female body and ‘Look Out Notice – Oru Padaprashnam,’ was another street performance that was inspired by the sex scandal related to the former Minister P.K. Kunhalikutty. 

A nostalgic gathering

Ganesh said he was a bit apprehensive about the reproduction of Van Gogh’s Starry Night that covers an entire wall at Slow Cafe becoming a backdrop for his play, however, the performance seemed to blend well with the background

The play had earlier been performed in different parts of Kerala as a street corner play at various protests organised in support of the Farmers’ agitation beginning with Kuttanad in January. It was later staged at Thodupuzha, Kanjani and Thrissur. The staging at Slow Cafe was organised by former SFI activists of Sree Kerala Varma College, Thrissur, mostly from the late 1980s and early 1990s. The occasion also provided for a nostalgic get-together for many even though the gathering was small, keeping with the pandemic situation, all masked and sanitised. 

Slow Art Cafe Thrissur is an associate of India Art Review

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