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Maraj makes theatre comeback in The Saint
After a 23-year hiatus from the theatre, former minister Ralph Maraj made an emphatic return to the stage Friday night with his convincing, emotive portrayal of Vishnu Maharaj, the protagonist in his hit play—The Saint.
Maraj, who also directed the play, made his mark on his old stomping ground, the Naparima Bowl in San Fernando, as he reconciled with his first love (theatre) before a sold-out audience.
Attendees included former prime minister Patrick Manning and his wife, Hazel, former health minister Jerry Narace and India High Commissioner, Malay Mishra.
Of the many roles Maraj played in his life—politician, playwright, director—Vishnu seemed to strike a personal cord for him as the former parliamentarian wept briefly during his performance.
Maraj, who wrote the political satire in 1983, was ably supported by an award-winning cast led by Hubert Ramlal, who played Vishnu’s father, Chirkoot Rampersad Maharaj.
Other characters in the Drama Guild Production play included Vishnu’s girlfriend Seeta (Beverley Ann Seupaul), whom he abandons to embark on a spiritual journey, Vishnu’s mother Kowsilia (Jacqulin Seupaul) and Vishnu’s brother, Cornelius (Denesh Maharaj). Ramlal’s enthusiastic portrayal of Chirkoot breathed life in the play, offering well-timed comedic breaks.
Maharaj also gave a stellar performance, shedding tears during his performance. The Saint centres around Vishnu’s personal journey to self-discovery and the resulting influence on his family. A particularly emotional scene involved Vishnu’s father urging him to stay home and not to go to India to “waste his life.”
Vishnu explains his desperation for enlightenment after feeling like ending his life to attain union with God. Maraj’s emotional portrayal on stage had many in the audience awed.
Vishnu’s father Chirkoot instead devises a plan for Seeta to “trap” Vishnu to stay, convincing her to become pregnant so Vishnu would change his mind. This leads to another emotional scene as Seeta confronts Vishnu before he leaves for India.
He apologises for not marrying her, sharing his insecurity about being a good husband.
After his return home, he discovers Seeta married to his brother, Cornelius, who confesses their son is really Vishnu’s child, which results in the brothers fighting.
Vishnu’s changed personality begins to unfold and his father’s lust for money changes to humility.
Seeta, who was a broken woman after her father disowned her, finds peace and self-worth, likening herself to Indian Saint Meerabai who dedicated her life to Lord Krishna.
The most significant transformation in the play was Cornelius, who gave up brotherly hatred and material gain in order to attain inner peace.
The play earned Maraj a standing ovation.
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