S.K. Misro, who was recently felicitated at Kalabharati, talks about the state of Telugu theatre today.

S.K. Misro is a name to reckon with in the realm of Telugu social theatre. A thespian par excellence, he made his indelible mark as an actor, director and playwright. A little over half a century into theatre, Misro who continues to remain an imaginative persona was felicitated recently at Kalabharati, Visakhapatnam.

Ever since his tryst with theatre way back in 1958, he has been passionate about everything associated with the stage. Although he initially floated a couple of theatre forums, he has been the force behind his mentor K. Venkateswara Rao’s banner Bahuroopa Nata Samakhya, after the latter’s demise. Apart from theatre, Misro has also made a foray into the Telugu film industry; he acted in several Telugu films and also directed five Telefilms. He also directed Kamal Hassan and Rao Gopalarao in the play Bettam Manishi and Chandramohan in the play Kalakshepam staged in Visakhapatnam.

Theater, he believes, is not just a means of entertainment; it forms a thought-provoking tool for social change; however, its purpose is not being taken note of, he laments. Today even in the face of satellite invasion, theatre is ticking because of the patronage of common folk, he observed.

Mention the role of the government and the otherwise soft-spoken Misro minces no words. “The governmental concern for its sustenance remains bleak and pathetic. Why and how under the sun drama is clubbed with cinema and TV development corporation. Theatre is a horse of different and distinct hue and it cannot be bracketed with non-live contact performances for governmental prop,” he maintains adding that merely conducting Nandi Nataka Utsav does not mean a robust patronage of theatre. Providing a good proscenium theatre within the affordable reach of local troupes would do a lot of good for promotion of theatre on the part of the government, he opined.

Though parishad competitions had, in a way, led to the advent of what came to be known as parishad formula plays, thanks to the parishads the theatre fest is being looked forward to in a big way, he felt. However, to have quality performances and further improvement, Parishad organisers should also conduct post performance interactive sessions with the audience for the participant troupes. It would not only make the performers take up their production on an earnest note but also make them take note of the audience response, which would surely be a recipe to turn up better, he suggested. Unlike in social theatre, Telugu verse drama or puranic theatre artistes could carve a niche for themselves and eke out a living by being professionals because of the inherent and immense emotive appeal of the characters and frequency of performances, he said.

The dearth of female actors has been a handicap with Telugu social theatre, he bemoaned. Big corporate houses can rescue Telugu theatre from its grim state and provide succour by adopting troupes or by sponsoring socially relevant and well-meaning plays as part of their social responsibility, he said.