Relying on crisp screenplay, spontaneity and improvisation, S.Ve. Shekher’s plays have something new for the audience everyday
If laughter is the food of good health, then you can have it in plenty with S.Ve.Shekher on stage. No doubt, he has staged more than 5400 shows with stupendous success.
“100 minutes, 200 laughters is our slogan,” he says. When Shekher is in his elements, there is never a dull moment. For, he believes in effective communication. “The person sitting in the last row is as important as the one in the first row. It should never go above your head or below your neck. We keep the audience glued to their seats till we drop our curtains.”
Even as a child he used to visit the workplace of his father S.Venkataraman, who had directed plays involving people such as Cho, Major Sundararajan and Nagesh. “My father was a disciplined person. He brought a lot of ethics into our system. It is his training that now we never focus on negative aspects of life in our plays and also never encourage drinking or smoking in our theatre activities,” he says.
Shekher’s first tryst with theatre happened when he was 13 years old. He was asked to operate sound for a play. It was just a stop gap arrangement but continued and he developed interest and became an expert in broadcast, sound effects and theatrics. He won the Best All India Programme Producer award for four consecutive years from Radio and TV Advertising Practitioners Association of India. “In fact, I did the first radio commercial for Vividh Bharti,” he says.
The successful drama tour to Singapore in 1974 propelled him to form his own troupe Natakhapriya. When he started his own, there were 125 drama troupes in the State and 150 sabhas. He had to compete with stalwarts such as R.S. Manohar, Major Sundararajan, Cho, Nagesh, Sahasranamam, AVM Rajan, Suruli Rajan and Manorama. “Then we took a smart decision to take a different track. We opted for one-line story and concentrated more on screenplay. We kept the audience guessing,” he says.
All his plays are nonstop laughter. He has produced 24 full-fledged stage plays and his dramas are available on websites and also in all video and audio formats. They have turned out to be big stress busters. “Believe me or not, workers in cottage industries in Tiruppur and Sivakasi hear the audio track of my dramas to get relieved of stress at work. One psychiatrist had even prescribed my plays for his patients,” he smiles.
Shekher conceptualises his plays and has different story writers. “Our plays are dialogue oriented. We improvise our play everyday and it is the USP of our troupe. I gauge the pulse of the audience within 10 minutes of the play and adapt,” he says.
His tele-serial Vannakolangal created a sensation as it was re-telecast eight times in Doordarshan. He has staged plays all over the world and also with the local groups in Washington and Philadelphia. “It is a kind of drama workshop,” he says.
Shekher expects the Government to provide an exclusive space with all facilities at subsidised rate to promote drama activities.
Through Sri Sukar Public Charitable Trust, he does a lot of social service. He has done numerous awareness campaigns for the State Government. He has also done a television serial creating awareness on blood donation, eye donation and juvenile diabetes. “We provide educational assistance to students. Under the ‘Serve the dead’ programme, we collect 10 to 15 unclaimed bodies every month from Government Hospital and do mass burial,” he says.
Shekher is also an avid photographer. His colour transparencies have adorned popular Tamil magazines. “In fact, I entered kollywood as a still photographer for a movie Mogham. Then, K.Balachander spotted my talent and provided a role in the film Ninaithale Inikkum and later gave me a full fledged role in Varumayin Niram Sivappu in acknowledgement of my acting skills,” says Shekher.
He has acted in more than 90 films and now after 32 years he is planning to remake the blockbuster of the 80s Manal Kayiru. “I am planning to involve the same cast which includes Visu, Kuriakose Ranga and Shanthikrishna. My son Ashwin Shekher will be the hero,” he says.
“Tamil cinema is in an inflated state and it cannot be mistaken for growth,” he feels. “People here concentrate more on technology than on script. Only very few taste success,” he says.
When asked why he is choosy in accepting film offers, he says, “I am not interested to be in a successful film but would like to be the reason for the success of that film.”
Shekher is cheerful as he is a firm believer in what his father has told him “Start a day with smile and end it with laughter.”