Unforgettable legacy

Memories

Unforgettable legacy

For a long time after that, I’d imagine a flurry of tomatoes whenever I met Mithran Devanesen. I confessed that  to him during one of our several precious nights out last year when he was directing my play, Midnight Hotel.

I said, “At least you’ve nothing to complain about. What you’re doing now is every bit as creative as anything you must have seen abroad.” He gazed into his drink for a while, looked up and said gravely, “Thanks.”

When we toured Midnight, someone tweeted that a waiter in Bangalore had jumped into the bartender’s arms during one of the scarier scenes!  That was Mithran’s magic. He could easily entice his audience into the core of the play, and keep them there till the final curtain. We had our spats. In fact, at one point in Bangalore, the cast and crew grew tense. But when we sat across each other at dinner after the final night, we were grinning at each other. 

Mithran had seen life. Over several sessions, he laid bare his life, impressions and dreams. He had a runaway heart. It melted and went after people he thought were suffering.

He quit Medical College because he couldn’t take the “blood and gore”. For a time  after that, he disappeared. “Where did you go?” I asked. He grinned. “To your city. There was a time I worked as a coolie in the Thiruvananthapuram bus terminus!” It was a revelation. But knowing Mithran, it wasn’t such a surprise either.

He was suave impresario, smooth talker. He was the cynosure of a 100 desperate eyes — of HIV-positive children, abandoned women, deprived talent and a brood of dependents who considered him friend and saviour. He was a protector of animals. And he did everything in style. God knows how the one who named him was so prophetic!
During our first night out, when he started to recount moments from his amazing life, I said, “But, Mithran, you must write all this down!

There are at least a couple of books in you!” I harassed him so much that by the time of our final meeting, he said, “Okay, I’m doing it. Someone’s coming home every day, and I’m dictating the story.”

But the tide changed in less than six months.  He was diagnosed with lung cancer. He tried radiation and chemo, but switched to Tibetan medicine. He seemed to become even more sprightly.

“I’m going to take Midnight Hotel out of the country now!” he said. He had a million plans. The new system of medicine kept him out of pain. He drove here, there, everywhere. He staged plays, playlets, mini playlets.

He did programmes to raise awareness about cancer. He spent quality time with inmates of the homes he ran. I think he packed more into his life in those ten months than a healthy youngster half his age could have dreamt of doing.

Ten months. Theatre-maker, with more items than his menu could hold — actor, director, designer, award-winner, traveller, Brahma’s Hair, Dance Like A Man, This English, Funny Money, Shadow Box, Midnight Hotel, healer, protector. Friend.

The last time I saw him, on August 9, 2010, he was lying as if on stage, buttoned up and hands formally on his chest, eyes closed.  There were people, family, friends, dependents, fans, followers, all around, just staring ahead or weeping or speaking out their pain. It was an impressive last scene. Even for Mithran. My friend.

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