Actor Visu said in the article, ‘I never left the stage’ :“My only regret is the current state of affairs in the field. The first question an aspiring actor asks is about his pay, whereas I would have been happier if he had asked me about the play and his role… The sincerity, dedication and faith have vanished.” Several theatre personalities have reacted to this statement. Excerpts:
‘Kala Nilayam’ Chandru: This is my 50th year in Tamil theatre and I have seen so many changes. It was surprising to read Visu’s statement about the state of theatre today. It’s rather myopic. The younger crop of artists is eager to go on stage without any financial consideration. All they expect is appreciation; most of them are employed and are willing to spend money on production. They may not be punctual for rehearsals owing to official commitments, but that happens only in the beginning. Once they get involved, they are committed.
‘Gurukulam’ M.B. Moorthy: Surprising that it comes from a great artist such as Visu. I was with Poornam Vishwanathan for a long period and now I am on my own. Nowhere have I encountered an artist demanding money. Having been away from the stage for 33 years, Visu may be is not up-to-date. This may be his personal experience but readers should not be misled. We fight against many odds to stage a play. Artists act in television serials for their livelihood and do theatre for personal satisfaction. In my group, we hardly have any money left at the end of a play. We share the expenses to make good the loss. It is love for theatre that keeps us going.
‘Dummies’ V. Sridhar: I disagree with Visu. We are driven by passion to be on stage every evening. My group, barring me, is young. The fun we have has to be seen to be believed. Chennai Drama Group, is again run by youngsters with a lot of zest and energy. The overriding factor for all of us is ‘Acting On Stage.’ Everything else is secondary.
‘Dummies’ V. Srivathson: Visu has made this statement probably out of ignorance or because he has been away too long. Those were the days when drama was a stepping stone to get into films. Today’s youngsters are just not bothered about this at all. They act or assist out of sheer passion. I earmark a portion of my income for my group. It is the same with others. We often are cash strapped but don’t charge the audience.
‘UAA’ Y. Gee Mahendra: Visu is my dearest and closest friend. He had his moorings in UAA and it was I who directed his first play ‘Uravukku Kai Koduppom’. Hence I have the liberty to question his statement. I guess it might be due to some personal experience while working on his new play. He is aware of how my father spent money out of his pocket to stage plays. A rickety scooter would be the mode of transport. After years of struggle, today I pay my artists a decent amount to meet at least their conveyance expense. Most of the Tamil theatre groups are in the red but still continue to stage plays. Why? The motivating factor is the applause they receive. There is scarcely any money in it for them. It is because of dedication and sincerity that these groups still exist.
‘Hari Giri Theatres’ T.D. Balu: There is actually a great revival happening on the Tamil Drama front. It is heartening to find youngsters in the audience. Same is not the case with acting. If at all they come, it is only to use theatre as a stepping stone to television. Probably, Visu might have encountered a few who demanded payment and were actually looking for a break in TV.
It has to be conceded that money has become the prime factor and passion has taken a back seat.
Yet there are groups that are struggling to keep their passion alive.