Be it cinema or stage, behind-the-scenes frenzy can never fail to evoke laughter. For instance, who can forget the rip-roaring Nagesh-Manorama-Ranga Rao sequences in ‘Server Sundaram,’ which were shot as scenes in a film within a film? Observing the potential that the backstage and rehearsal sessions of an amateur troupe offer, playwright ‘Chitralaya’ Sriram makes them the milieu of ‘Nadagam,’ his latest endeavour for UAA. A fresh theme, undoubtedly!
Sabakaran (Y Gee Mahendra) is an avid theatre enthusiast – an actor who declines opportunities to act in films and on television, because he feels such assignments could come in the way of his stage activities. And till the end he remains so.
The play begins in 1975 when Doordarshan first came to Chennai, and travels to the present day. The blow television dealt to theatre, the resurrection of the art, though its golden age is now perceived as a thing of the past, and its present status, unfold through the happenings in an amateur troupe that has Sabakaran as its helmsman. Director and protagonist Y Gee Mahendra finds it an easy task because he only has to play himself. Peppery, when he notices slips on stage, it is clear that Sriram has based the character of Sabakaran on the man who is UAA’s mainstay. But the best part is such asides present laugh-worthy humour.
Situation-based or dialogue-oriented, you are in for dollops of fun in two scenes in particular – one, where Mahendra plays a zamindar, and the other that has Suppini playing a film director. As always, Balaji and Subramaniam prove effective performers. The wig that Brindha (she plays stage artist Royapuram Radha) sports to make her look younger (in the 1975 segment) is so pathetic that you feel sorry for her. Making a guest appearance as a visually-challenged woman, who opens the eyes of the troupe to the positives around them, Madhuvanti Arun is apt. But how does she go up the stage from among the audience without so much as a faltering step, when sight is a problem?
It is suggested Anandhi and Mahendra are to become parents for the first time. The least that can be done is to state that the couple is going to have a child quite a few years after marriage to make the matter appear somewhat plausible. Anandhi’s coyness in the scene just doesn’t jell.
The very first show of a new play is bound to have teething problems. It is to the credit of UAA that ‘Nadagam,’ inaugurated on Saturday last, didn’t have any obvious howlers.
You get to ‘listen’ to Sivaji Ganesan conversing with Sabakaran on the telephone. Chinni Jayanth who has replicated the voice of the inimitable actor has done a commendable job.
Most of UAA’s plays are a blend of the comic and the serious. So it is with ‘Nadagam.’ Dramatised by Mahendra, ‘Nadagam’ at times a few unconnected strands of incidents seem strung together. But Sabakaran’s character that goes through the warp and weft manages to hold it in place.
Mahendra’s spontaneity is a major highlight of ‘Nadagam.’