Crea-Shakthi, a Chennai-based theatre institution, creates and showcases l nuances of theatre that attempt to raise the bar and enhance Chennai’s theatre experience.
Its tremendous hurly-burly in the auditorium. A whole bunch of 20-something-year-olds are juggling between assortments of roles. A young member is erecting sets; another is methodically helming the ticket counter; yet another is dabbling with sound arrangement; a few are running helter-skelter, simply taking stock of random things. Putting together the city’s first youth theatre festival comes with its own complexities but when each character is executed with skill and earnestness, the consequence is collective success. The quirk is that this process is also a semblance of creating good theatre. MY Theatre Festival’s (MYTF) first edition in February, last year, at Chennai’s T N Rajarathinam Auditorium was just that — good theatre!
Of course, the second edition was great too. However, it has come a long way from being an exclusive theatre festival to supplementing the several shades of theatre that its makers, now create and present in the backdrop of a theatre institution called Crea-Shakthi. One, and perhaps the most dominant, among its many strengths, is its dynamic nine-member team – that, by the way, has six Chartered Accountants, a Radio Jockey and two young women who are fresh out of college.
Dushyanth Gunashekar, Creative Head, says, “All along, I’ve heard people say that my son’s learning music; my daughter is a student of dance. Why don’t people want their kids to study theatre that, by the way, is the most powerful tool of storytelling and an amalgamation of dance, music and acting? We wanted to break that format and hence, Campus Theatre, is one of our most integral and influential wings.”
Tanvi Patel and Nayantara Nayar, fresh out of college, have certainly let their hearts rule their minds. Artistic Directors at Crea-Shakthi and in charge of training initiatives in schools, they say, “We have evolved a one-off method of training called Subject Integration. Every week, after a consultation with the teacher, we weave a difficult lesson/subject into our training session, so that the students take away a lesson from their curriculum, apart from aspects of theatre.”
Crea-Shakthi is working with a bunch of schools including Chettinad Vidyashram, PSBB, Sishya and Hari Shree Vidyalayam, a couple of which have also agreed to make theatre a part of their curriculum. Women’s Christian College, Anna University, Stella Maris College, IIT Madras, Ethiraj College are just a few from their list of colleges.
Mohamed Faizan’s story is distinctive. A hardcore Chartered Accountant, with absolutely no background in theatre, heads the Finance and HR department of Crea-Shakthi, apart from a full-fledged, demanding job, of course. He says, “Crea-Shakthi keeps me sane. Otherwise, by now, accounts would’ve driven me crazy. I appreciate theatre a great deal and I am able to perceive things in a way that people involved in the script might not be able to; it’s important to have an outsider’s perspective, isn’t it?”
Vaidhya M. Sundar, who juggles between being a Radio Jockey and playing the Artistic Director, says, “We all have full-time jobs, and honestly, it’s not that difficult to manage both worlds. I guess that’s what theatre teaches you; a whole bunch of life skills, time-management being one among them.”
Abhinav Suresh, another Chartered Accountant, and Artistic Director at Crea-Shakthi, says, “In the last one year, so much has happened — 19 productions, 45 stage shows, an annual national inter-college theatre contest (Dramalogue), an annual youth theatre festival, several campus theatre initiatives…phew! Of course, it’s worth the effort.”
What’s next on the agenda? “If you want to study in Manipal University or Sastra University, does it come to you? No, you go to it. Likewise, we are a theatre institution, and if people need us, they will come to us, from whichever part of the country they may be. We need to mark Chennai with that dignity on the theatrical map of the country, on a par with Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore,” says Dushyanth.