Let’s start with a game, announced Hariharan Ganapathy alias Kavin J Babu. Immediately all the kids sitting on the carpet in front scrambled to their feet and rushed to him. The adults sat tight, hoping they were not going to be asked to join as well.
We had gathered in the hall of At 641 on Bharathi Park Road to watch Babu’s solo performance of Sevalin Kathai. Once he finished with a version of Simon Says, Babu jumped into his performance. The play, written by the actor himself, was an engaging mix of storytelling, games, and action.
Why does the rooster crow every morning? To answer this question, Babu took his audience into Kaado Kaadu ruled by the dog king and his coterie. Babu touched upon the Panchatantra tale of the rabbit and lion to explain how the dog became the king.
With sly hits at the education and political system, Babu kept the young and old laughing. When the dog decides to open a school that will teach everyone everything — elephants to climb trees, goats to fly, tortoise to run — there’s havoc in the jungle. Only the clever rooster will have nothing to do with a school like this.
This scenario gave Babu the opportunity to ask everyone what they thought should be taught in schools. The answers were interesting: ranging from friendship and drama to independent thought and freedom of speech.
The climax was reached when the dog and its coterie insult the sun and the latter refuses to rise. Here was a simple explanation for the science behind why we need the sun: plants die without photosynthesis, people become weak due to lack of vitamin D, water goes bad with lack of oxygen… The animals’ pleas have no effect and so it is left to the rooster to come to the rescue.
With the audience being constantly engaged with sudden questions, there wasn’t a single dull minute.
The children threw themselves into the mimicking the animals climbing a mountain, crossing a thicket of thorns and swimming through a river on their way to the sun’s palace.
One little boy’s infectious chuckles could be heard every now and then, leading everyone to laugh as well.
Whether it was getting people’ opinions on the concept of democracy, children’s ideas of what education should be like or talking about environmental damage, Babu’s script was simple but effective. For 75 minutes, one man managed to keep his audience riveted.