Vignesh Ratnam’s play, Pattambi, written by Ratnam Koothapiran, is certainly of a different kind. With a simple premise, but an unexpected ending, Pattambi is not the most entertaining or humorous play you would come across, but a serious, emotionally powerful one.

Ratnam won the second place for best screenplay and Vignesh won the best actor award in the Kodai Nadaga Vizha (conducted annually by Kartik Fine Arts) in April, earlier this year.

Pattambi (Vignesh) is a 20-something working in an IT company, who lives with his parents. Pattambi and his neighbor, Vasanthi (Swathi), like each other and plan to get married soon, and their parents also eventually agree. With everything going so well, Pattambi feels that his life is missing “thrill.” Soon enough, a police inspector takes him to the station and informs him that a certain Pattambi, with the same phone number, has been accused of swindling several people of money. Pattambi later gets a phone call from the impostor, also with the same name, who challenges Pattambi to a mind game. Who is the con man and what does he want?

Contrasting views

Although some parts of the story feel exaggerated, the reason the script stands out is that it builds the plot well, and because of the emotion it packs in the second half.

Though Pattambi has a running time of only 90 minutes, the story has enough twists to keep the audience guessing. In a conversation with the scriptwriter, Ratnam Koothapiran said he wrote a tale where all the key incidents are consequences of decisions taken under emotional stress. The climax drew a lot of muttering and contrasting views from the audience, but that was arguably the highlight of the story.

The name Pattambi was chosen from the famous character of another play, Oor Vambu, by the writer Marina. In that play, Ratnam’s father, the theatre legend Koothapiran, plays the role of Pattambi, an innocent cook. In this version, Vignesh reprises the role of the innocent cook. His brilliant portrayal of a tense and angry young man earned a well-deserved accolade.

Ratnam Koothapiran’s role as the seemingly scheming Pattambi was equally commendable. The troupe has inducted two new female actors from Ethiraj College, following the success of Koothapiran’s earlier script Oru Robovin Diary, acted out by the college students for their Annual Day.

A novelty that I liked in this play is how Koothapiran’s character is introduced without revealing his face. Some characters in the play have varying shades of grey; it takes a while — probably till the end — to figure out who the good guy is, of the two. This is where the audience is made to think — is it wrong to take revenge?

What’s the most fitting punishment you can give someone? That’s why the ending is so perfect — while unconventional and not clichéd, it neatly ties everything up and takes the audience by surprise.

With a mix of suspense and dry humor in the plot, bolstered by the performances of the lead actors, the depiction of the different dimensions of human nature makes Pattambi a memorable watch.

This article was originally published in The Hindu on 29 August 2019 and has been reposted with permission.

This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.