The nine-day Nandana Navarasa Nadaka Vizha has kept public interest in theatre movement alive

Madurai is not only the seat of Tamil learning but also a centre of Tamil drama. Not many would have forgotten the contributions of Sankaradas Swamigal and Nawab Rajamanickam Pillai to this art. Be it the spectacular historical and mythological plays or the topical social dramas, people flocked to the halls to watch them. Their interest in theatre gradually faded with the advent of film and then satellite television.

With the theatre festival now running, all of a sudden the city is buzzing. The Lakshmi Sundaram Hall, venue of the fete, witnessed a sizeable turnout and the hall reverberated with rapturous applause for the performers. The audience response has delighted the drama aficionados who were waiting for such an opportunity.

Some people in the city feel that we can cash in on this new found enthusiasm for drama and keep it active. Here are some of their suggestions to revive theatre art in the city.

Dr. Sam C. Bose, plastic and reconstructive surgeon:

Such an activity is a must for a place like Madurai with rich cultural history. Of late,I don’t see many dramas happening in the city. This festival is a good take-off and to keep this interest afloat, such festivals should be organised more frequently.

If this art form has to flourish like before, children must be involved in this activity. Schools and colleges should come forward to motivate their wards and teach them the performing arts.

They should organise competitions and create an interest in drama. There is no point in attributing reasons to lack of sponsors for staging plays. If this be the case, I am willing to sponsor the first inter-school drama competition in the city.

R. Srinivasan, Director, TVS Schools:

During 1950s, city dwellers had the unique opportunity of witnessing stage plays by doyens of the art like Nawab Rajamanickam on daily basis. His epic dramas such as ‘Baktha Ramadoss’, ‘Sampoorna Ramayanam’ went on even for 30 days without a break with two shows daily and staged to packed houses.

Now, after a long period, people have once again got the opportunity to witness stage plays of different troupes continuously for nine days. Thanks to Sri Sathguru Sangeetha Samajam, T.V. Varadharjen of Tamil Stage Drama Producers’ Association and other sponsors for organising the festival in the city.

It is not easy to bring famous troupes to Madurai from Chennai, as it involves a lot of money in the form of logistics like transport, travel, stay and hall expenses. Prominent organisations in Madurai can join together and conduct such week-long drama festival at least once a year.

Educational institutions in the city should encourage students to witness the plays. In many local schools including TVS Schools, theatre art forms a part of the extracurricular activities. By witnessing stage plays, students will also develop a lot of interest for this fine art, which will in turn motivate them to involve in stage play activities.

S.T. Noah, former Head, Department of Tamil, The American College:

As a teacher of theatre arts in college, I am disappointed to see lack of interest among the managements of educational institutions to have theatre arts as a subject in the syllabus.

College managements should introduce theatre arts as a course and create an interest among the students. Theatre activity in colleges should be promoted.

It is easy to point fingers at lack of financial support. But where are the organisers? Earlier, there were many people willing to conduct such drama festivals but now citing poor public patronage not many come forward.

Revival of drama now lies in the hands of organisers and educational institutions. Audience turnout for this theatre festival is a good beginning.

Sachu, Member Secretary, Tamil Nadu Eyal Isai Nataka Mandram:

Theatre art is thriving and there is good audience support for the stage dramas in places like Chennai. This should spread to other centres also. At present, the Mandram concentrates on promoting folk art in a big way. We have organised cultural festivals across the State in association with local groups.

On our part, we also intend to promote drama and there is no dearth of talent. In fact, local groups in Madurai wanted to stage their plays in this festival. Since last minute inclusion was not possible, we asked them to enrol with the Tamil Stage Drama Producers’ Association.

We encourage such festivals and would like to see more such happenings in the city. Now, it is up to the next generation to take up the mantle and popularise the art.

Thought provoking

The inaugural play, Neenga Yaar Pakkam (Whose side are you on?), of the Nandana Navarasa Nataka Vizha deals with the dilemma of parents on whether to join their son in a foreign country or stay home where their heart and soul is. Through the contemporary topic, the play captures the sentiments of the elders at home and presents their view on displacement.

Protagonist Sivaraman (played by Kathadi Ramamurthy) does not believe in moving out of the place where he is comfortable. He enjoys the idea of retirement and doesn't want to shift to the United States, where his son works. Offers of visits to Disney World and Niagara Falls fail to lure him as he prefers to stroll and chat with his friends in the park in Mylapore.

But his wife Lalitha (Hemalatha) differs from her husband and wants to be with her son, who feigns illness. Only after reaching there does she realise her husband was right. Soon boredom makes her depressed and she has to be brought home. While the son blames his father for his mother's state, Sivaraman quietly revives her with a dose of local gossip. Sivaraman argues that had he been there with his wife, it would have resulted in frayed tempers as they would have nothing else to do.

With liberal humour and sentiment, the play takes the audience along with the characters. S.L. Naanu wrote the story and dialogues and also directed the play. He does not sermonise but asks the audience whether they support parents’ migration to the US. He cleverly makes the point that your home is your heaven but leaves the solution to the audience.

(The festival is on till June 24 at Lakshmi Sundaram Hall).

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