Hindu, Muslim and Christian actors perform the Passion of Jesus in Kerala
by Nirmala Carvalho

The show will be staged until 22 March in local parishes. Famous actors are among the performers. The Indian Missionary Society information Centre director wrote and directed the play. The scenes of the arrest and crucifixion move spectators.

Thiruvananthapuram (AsiaNews) – Artists from various Indian states are staging the Passion of Christ until 22 March in 14 parishes in Kerala. Most of the performers are Hindu and belong to the Pretna Kala Manch (Art Forum for Inspiration) Theatre Company.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr Anand Mathew IMS, author, director and coordinator of the Vishwa Jyoti Communications (Indian Missionary Society Information Centre), said that the most dramatic scenes, like the one in which Christ is nailed to the cross, "provoked such strong emotions that many spectators burst into tears."

Titled Snehabali, the play is in Malayalam, Kerala’s official language. However, the actors come from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Assam, Delhi and Rajasthan. Most are Hindus, but there are also some Muslims and Christians. Seven of the Christians belong to the Santvana community, a fraternity of lay people founded by Fr Dheeraj Sabu IMS.

Fr Anand wrote and directed the play, based on Jesus’s trial in the four Gospels. The main performers – Mukesh Kumar Jhanjharwala and Vivekanand Brahmachary who play Jesus and Pontius Pilate respectively – are famous actors with more than 20 years of experience on the Indian stage and in Hindi films.

This kind of performance is a rare event in India and a first in Malayalam. To fully understand the depth of the narrative, the actors spent several days in prayer, fasting and abstinence.

The play opens with Judas’ betrayal, the director said, followed by Jesus' arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane and the subsequent interrogation before the high priest Caiaphas and his father-in-law Annas. "The arrest scene is really touching,” Fr Anand said, “and many people cried during the flagellation and the way to the crucifixion of Christ."

So far, the show has been performed in parish halls in the districts of Alapuzha, Kottayam, Ernakulam and Trichur. The next performances will be in Kollam.

At the end of each representation, Fr Prashant IMS, director of the Indian Missionary Society Dhyana Bhavan in Punnapra, invites spectators to meditate on the value of the blood that Christ shed on the cross and experience the healing of body, mind and spirit through the power of that precious blood.

“Some participants,” Fr Anand explained, "said that they experienced healing during the representation."