The Hindu’s three-day Tamil drama fest reiterated people’s faith and love for theatre

Last weekend, the stage was set for barrels of fun and laughter when the stalwarts of Tamil theatre S.Ve.Shekar and Y.Gee.Mahendra descended on the city to enthral the audience with their in-house productions. Close on the heels at The Hindu’s Kodai Nadaga Vizha was also YG’s daughter Madhuvanthi Arun, who too in her inimitable style stole the audience appreciation.

All the three plays staged were a class apart.

S.Ve. Shekar's witty one-liners, political satires and dominating stage presence remain intact even after several re-runs of Alwah in the last one decade. In this play, he touches upon practically every contemporary issue from rationing of gas cylinders to the controversy hitting emu farms, the spectrum scam to corruption in every sector, state and central politics.

When Shekar enacts such close-to-heart matters, the story of the play can fit into the back of a visiting card! For, there is no need for a plot or its logic when humour-riddled dialogues flow in abundance and keep the audience waiting with baited breath for the next.

Even his trademark pauses are laced with comedy as often they too hide an inner meaning. Many times, the jokes are thrown straight at the face. There is levity in each character either named after a town, Madurai, Sirkazhi, Chidambaram, Kizhambur, Delhi or as the three women characters called Kulfi 1, 2, 3.

Though Alwah is Shekar's show all the way, another person who made his presence felt was Telephone Mani. Playing an investigator and also doubling up as a woman, Mani had the audience in splits with his sheer timing, costume and body language. Whenever his two roles met, an unstoppable wave of laughter swept through.

Alwah has had 5,800-plus shows so far and still raring to go. This, says Shekar, shows that dramas are here to stay even after the advent of mega serials, and TV reality shows that run beyond a year. “Stage art needs to be nurtured by public and stage actors should be proud of their talent,” he adds.

Shekar is particular that all his artistes are teetotallers and vegetarians because discipline is what he looks for. “Acting skills can be taught and acquired but basic discipline has to be inherent,” he says.

Madhuvanthi Arun’s Shakthi billed for day Two sprung surprises with its inspiring plot and performances. A taut thriller that it was, the entire performance on a revolving stage turned out to be a novel attraction.

The story is about three persons on the trail of a doll in which the country's top most military secrets are hidden and delivered to Raj, husband of Shakti, a blind but bold woman whose extra sensory abilities are superior in nature. The entire plot revolves around the villains who visit her house alternately in search of the doll and terrorise her. How she deals them and comes out of their web forms the rest of the story.

Sureshwar who plays the scheming Albert Ahmed Thothatri gives a flawless performance. In a way, he is the hero who plays the villain through three different characters effortlessly and carries the show on his shoulders. The two side kicks Ravi (a second generation actor in the troupe, his father K P Jayakumar who also appears in this play and is a regular in Y Gee Mahendra's plays), and Nambi (acted by a Madurai lad Gopal from Samayanallur) played perfect partners. Madhuvanthi Arun essayed her role of a visually impaired girl to perfection. Bold and brave, she captured the audience with her commanding presence and tone. Music by the young music sensation Anirudh elevated the play to different levels at different stages.

The grand finale of the festival Y.Gee Mahendra’s Venkata 3 showcased his experience and versatility to the T. The story is about an ordinary officer, Venkatathri, who is also into the business of writing dialogues for mega serials. He ends up neglecting both office and home as his writing commitments take much of his time. To bail himself out, he gets himself cloned twice, one that takes care of his creative persona and the other attends to office work with the help of his scientist uncle Dhothathri.

But post-cloning his life turns topsy turvy and that forms the crux of the play. Mahendra brings his 50 years of experience to stage and carries out the three different roles of Venkata 1, 2 and 3 with flair and élan.

His body language, dialogues and expressions are a treat to watch. The family doctor and also the office manager Viswanathan support him commendably in the play. In particular, the latter’s performance was a sheer joy to watch. His timing, dialogue delivery, body language matched the class of the legendary Sivaji Ganesan.

The play drives home the message that the advancement of science and technology is important but not at the cost of nature.

The three-day fare ended on a promising note that people always look for something different in entertainment. The event was organised by The Hindu, powered by Karur Vysya Bank, with Shriram Chits and Investments and Pavendar Bharathidasan College of Engineering and Technology as the associate sponsors.