Alkazi Theatre Archives

Play: Nadugadhika (Malayalam), 1993
Written by: K.J. Baby, translated from Malayalam by Shirly M. Joseph

‘Nadu Gadhika’, unlike other political plays in Malayalam, has three distinctive versions. Out of which, two are printed versions. K.J. Baby’s Naadugadhika was published in 1993 by Gadhika Publications, Nadavayal, Wayanad. 

‘Nadu Gadhika’ is in the form of a ritual drama with songs and dialogues. The play was first performed as a street production by a troop of actors which included performers from the Adivasi community, as well as other communities. In the play, K.J.Baby retraces the history of subjugation and exploitation of two indigenous communities- Adiyas and Paniyas in Kerala and reconstructs their history.

There are two important characters in the play — Tamburan, representative of the dominant feudal world, and Gadhikakaran, a voice of the Adivasis who performs gadhika, a ritual of exorcising evil spirits. Through the character Gadhikaran, the playwright unravels and deconstructs two centuries of history from the viewpoint of the indigenous people of Kerala. History has depicted them as useless, traitors, and unworthy of existence. Through a series of historical enactments, Gadhikakaran unveils before them the root cause of their marginalization, which is nothing but a self-inflicted one. Gadhikakaran tells the Adivasis of their rich past from the ideal land called Mavelimantam where there were no master-slave dynamics in the society. The play shows how the Tamburan using the god ‘Mali’, a female deity made their ancestors — Melorichan and Keeyorothi slaves.

The play further narrates that the Tamburan — the feudal lords – joined the East India Company (EIC) and helped the EIC to capture the rebel king of Pazhassi who was hiding in Wayanad forest which was considered the land of the Adivasis. Tamburan also misleads the Adivasis and stops them from joining the migrants (during colonial times, post-1940, Travancore Christians were migrating to Malabar) thinking they would lose the power and control over the Adivasis. During the struggle for independence, Tamburan again misleads the Adivasis. While they first oppose Mahatma Gandhi, they later join him in order to save their land and dominance. Post Independence, during the rise of communism in Kerala, Tamburan threatens the Adivasis, misinforming them that they would be killed by the communists. However, Tamburan realizes the possibility of organizing communist forces and takes sides with the communists by holding A red flag. Seeing this, the Adivasis finally understand and take the flag away from him.

The play should be viewed in relation to the ongoing struggles of the indigenous community in Kerala. Although Kerala, governed by the Communist Party, was called a successful human development model, it is argued that Adivasi communities have been the victims of the Kerala model of development. While The passing of the Kerala Scheduled Tribes (Restriction on Transfer of Lands and Restoration of Alienated Lands) Act in 1975, was considered crucial for the marginalized Adivasis of the state, even after the framing of the rules in 1986 the governments took no action to implement the Act. The dissatisfaction and discontent among the Adivasis made many of them strengthen their struggle. As a result, few of the groups tried to occupy government land. For instance, In January 1995 Adivasi entered the Cheengeri Estate and built their huts there; In March 1995, the Adivasi Prvarthaka Samithi marched to Paanavally forest land and built their huts. The huts were destroyed and evicted by the forest and police department later. Finally, a case was filed in the high court of Kerala in 1988 and it took five years for the court to produce a verdict ordering the government to implement the 1975 Act within 6 months in 1993.


Image Courtesy:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *