Readings on Kerala (1A02ENG)
1. Discuss the various impediments that Ayisha faced in her career as an actress.
2. Discuss the role and influence of theatre in the evolution of current social conditions in Kerala
Kerala's current social conditions are largely impacted by the influence of theatre organizations such as the KPSC (Kerala People's Arts Club). During the 1950s when Ayisha was beginning her theatre career, KPSC and similar groups were becoming active in Eranad and Malabar, especially in small villages. Ayisha remarks in the feature written by Anasuya Menon, a prominent journalist that contemporary theatre lacks commitment. This is indicative of the nature of theatre activism in the past. Ayisha worked in plays that called for revolution, fighting feudalism. These plays have certainly shaped the social system of Kerala.
In the feature, titled "Courageous Act" Anasuya Menon attempts to highlight the various challenges faced by actor Nilambur Ayisha during her initial years. Ayisha started her career in acting during the 1950s when it was taboo for girls from the Muslim community to take part in theatre. Her debut play was Ijju Nalloru Manushyan Aavan Nokku directed by E K Ayamu. During the early performances, men played female roles in the play. EMS Namboodirippad, while reviewing the play suggested that women should play female roles. One day, Ayamu visited her house with her brother and inquired if Ayisha could act the role of Jameela in the play.
Ayisha's father was a patron of arts and his servants were given opportunity every evening to display their artistic talents. Her mother was apprehensive though. After her father's death, Ayisha's family realized they were broke. Poverty and hunger became her reality. Those who were against her theatre activism forbade people from helping her. Only a few good-hearted individuals like Kunhi Kuttan Thampan of the royal family or Nilambur and Dr M Usman offered her refuge. Both of them were social reformers and supported the arts. Actor Nilambur Balan advised Ayisha to actively take part in theatre.
After her father's death, the orthodox sections within the Muslim community and fundamentalists started chasing her. She was pelted with stones several times. During the Bob Marley Festival in Kochi someone hurled a stone at her. She was wounded between her eyebrows. On another occasion, someone shot at her. She was performing in one of KT Mohammed's plays in Manjeri. Ayisha narrowly escaped the attack. She was saved by sheer luck. Another time, while performing at Mannarkad, a man from the audience went up to her and slapped her. Ayisha lost her ability to hear in one ear due to this incident.
At the age of thirteen, Ayisha was forced into marrying a 47-year-old man who was uncouth and did not even wear a shirt. He took a large stick and threatened to beat Ayisha. On the fifth day of the marriage, Aisha asked him to get out of her house. She mothered a child at the age of fourteen and never married again. Theatre was Ayisha's passion.
There was no monetary benefit involved in her early theatre career. Ayisha brought her sister Amina to the stage through Dr Usman's play Ee Duniyavil Njan Ottakkanu (I'm Alone in this World). Ayisha was honoured with the title "Keralathinte Veeraputhri". She received many awards such as S L Puram State Prize for overall contribution to theatre and the Kerala State Award for the Best Supporting Actress in the children's film Oomakkuyil Paadumbol. Ayisha worked in many films such as Kandam Vacha Coat, Kuttikuppayam, Paleri Manickyam, etc.