Telugu theatre reached out to a younger audience and crossed international borders this year

Two new productions by the actors of Theatre Outreach Unit changed the way we looked at Telugu theatre in 2013. Bawdy costumes, lengthy dialogues and royal sets were replaced by minimal sets and fresh presentation. A group of 10 youngsters with a dream to act began their journey across Andhra Pradesh staging two plays — Ms. Meena and Adventures of Chinnari. These youngsters were trained in acting, music and dance and the stage buzzed with creativity.

In a span of nine months, they staged 105 shows in educational institutions, auditoriums and cultural centres in towns and villages and paved the way for a new dawn in Telugu theatre. Peddi Ramarao, project co-ordinator of Theatre Outreach Unit, calls it a new movement in Telugu theatre.

“We were able to reach out to a younger crowd and create new audience for Telugu theatre. Some of them were watching a play for the first time and were fascinated by the action, music and contemporary setting on stage. That is our success,” he says with pride.

Indla Chandrashekhar, director of Ms. Meena, asserts these plays have brought in young talent to the fore. “It was an amazing experience to stage shows at colleges and educational institutions and have young spectators in the audience. In the end, they became theatre enthusiasts and showed keen interest in learning theatre,” says Chandrashekhar.

As the Theatre Outreach Unit is getting ready to take new students for its second batch, Ramarao shares, “The group has been invited to stage the play in Colombo for Colombo Theatre International Festival 2014.”

Jhansi on stage

For Telugu theatre aficionados who went to watch Kanyasulkam by Gurujada Appa Rao, it was a pleasant surprise. On stage was the television host playing the role of Madhuravani in the social play. The play was being staged to coincide with Kanyasulkam completing 120 years.

Directed by Deekshit, the play also saw TV actor Uttej playing the role of Gireesam, Rallapali as Lubdhavdhanlu and G.V. Narayana Rao as Karataka Sastry.

Audience as sponsor

The husband-wife duo Sauda Aruna is on a mission. They want to make theatre a part of ‘one-crore club.’ “When movies can be part of 100-crore club, why can’t a play be in Rs 1-crore club?” asks Sauda. Their plays are forthright and hard hitting. “New people are entering Telugu theatre and it has become remuneration-oriented shows,” says Sauda and adds, “If we believe in audience as sponsors, our remuneration is guaranteed.” If their play Barbareekudu depicted a warrior prince, their play Jaathi Pita Ambedkar Varna Nirmoolana Siddhantam (a translated work, released also as a book) is ready for its 47th show on January 3, 2014.

Surabhi in France

The Surabhi group cast a spell on the French audience with its popular plays Mayabazaar, Bhakta Prahalada and Sri Krishna Leelalu. The Sri Venkateshwara Natya Mandali group with its 44 members went to France to participate in the Passages Festival in Metz (France). The group wowed the audience with the music and dance extravaganza.

Missing Nandi competitions

Every year amateur Telugu theatre groups wait eagerly for the Nandi competitions held for theatre.

This is seen as a platform for new groups to showcase their talent and win some prizes. This year, the scene is dull as notification for the competitions has not been issued

New cultural centre

If Ravindra Bharathi’s increasing of rates has not gone down well with small groups, Golden Threshold has made an entry as the cultural centre this year. The auditorium will be given for rent for screenings, workshops and cultural activities.