N .N. Pillai (Narayana pillai Narayana pillai) the maverick of Malayalam theatre reigned the theatre for over four decades and had written and directed over 28 plays which earned him the name iconoclast. A playwright, director, actor and orator, his plays which were of socio political satire exposed the stark realities of social life.
Winner of several laurels including the National sangeet nataka academy award he acted in most of his dramas. He along with his family had given life to most of his characters through his drama troupe “Viswa Kerala Kala Samithi” which was started in 1952. Notable among his plays were “Kapalika”, “Cross Belt”, “Easwaran Arasttil”, “Prethalokam”, “The president”, “Njan Swargathil” and “Supreme Court”. Novelty of the theme, earthly dialogues, uncompromising satire, staunch criticism of the social hypocrisy and the daring reviews of the political system and even the judiciary made his plays and its productions truly remarkable which attracted huge crowds all over the state and beyond boundaries.
His autobiography “Njan” is regarded as one of the most daring introspections of ones own life ever written in Malayalam language. It was a best seller like all his plays and still positions in the top selling list. He had also written two books on the theoretical aspects of theatre “Nadakadarpanam” and “Curtain”. As a playwright, director and actor Pillai brought qualitative changes to Malayalam theatre which had been stagnant for years with sentimental and melodramatic plays. Pillai also proved to be a successful film actor with movies “Godfather” and “Nadody”. A distinguishing feature of Pillai’s plays was that they sought to experiment with new themes, dialogues and staging techniques within the traditional structure. The numerous powerful characters he created in several of his socio-political satires sent shockwaves across the state. The world of his characters included the Mighty creator to the weakest creature like a fly.
The concept of the theatre in Pillai’s words: “A curtain behind me, a floor to stand on, you in front of me and a play within me“. The theatre couldn’t get simpler than what he had explained.
This webpage is a small tribute and only a minute sketch of this supreme genius.
N N Pillai Memorial at Dionysia, Olassa, Kottayam