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Fun-filled `Flight' for a noble cause

`Flight No. 172'... the magic has endured

THE YEAR was 1969. A golden period for Tamil theatre when artistes from Sivaji Ganesan and Nagesh to `Major' Sunderrajan and Sivakumar were famous on both the film and stage circuit! When troupes such as YGP's UAA, K. Balachander's Ragini Recreations and Manohar's National Theatres were formidable forces in the drama scenario. Not to forget V. Gopalakrishnan and Manorama with their Unity Club, Cho and `Chitralaya' Gopu. And competing with such doyens was this energetic playwright, a B. Tech final year student and the traditionally groomed son of Harikatha exponent the late Balakrishna Sastrigal, TSBK. Moulee with UAA's first full-length comedy play, "Flight No. 172."

The flight returns

Dwelling on the magic of the three-decade old "Flight ... " is not just a nostalgic sojourn. The trip on air is relevant once again because Kamal Haasan released the DVD and VCD of this classic comic cocktail, at the Narada Gana Sabha mini hall on Tuesday last.

The glitterati on the dais included Nagesh, Manorama, Parthiban, Y. Gee. Mahendra and S. Ve. Shekher, besides Kamal Haasan — all of whom have carved a niche for themselves in the comedy scenario of Tamil stage and cinema. The regard they have for Moulee's pen and the warmth they share with the veteran writer-director-actor were evident throughout. Nithya, well-known stage and television actor, who has been a part of Moulee's troupe since childhood emceed the show. Her succinct intro for each of the speakers went down well with the audience.

How it all began

Amidst the frenetic activity you catch up with Mouli for a flighty trip down memory lane. "Though I was with YGP even from my first year in college taking care of the humour strips in UAA's serious plays like "Nalandhaana," "Flight No. 172" was the first complete comedy that came with my name in the credits," laughs Moulee. That was because the young man didn't dare let his dad know that he was getting into acting and writing, in full swing. Amidst the humour, youth and freshness of the play was the underlying theme that sharing your woes often paves way for desirable solutions. In concept, scene of action, characterisation, dialogue and treatment, "Flight No. 172" was a very different attempt on stage. An attempt that created quite a stir and catapulted Moulee to instant fame!

"When we decided to have a new play we were sure about two things — it would be light-hearted and it would be very different from what had been hitherto attempted... " Moulee recalls.

So as a first step, they settled for a scene of action that had never been used before. The entire story would take place in the terminal of the Madras airport. There would be about eight main characters from diverse backgrounds and each would have a tale to tell. That was the broad outline, which Moulee later worked on into one of the wittiest and everlasting stage sagas.

The second take-off

You cannot keep down quality fun for long. Seventeen years later when Doordarshan, Madras, embarked on the idea of beaming serials, "Flight No. 172" adapted itself beautifully to the new medium and was again a runaway hit. "I wanted it taut and decided that six episodes would suffice," says Moulee. (Are the mega makers of today listening?)

And now the third ...

Another 17 years have rolled by. And now the same televised version has taken on a digitised form and Swathi Soft Solutions is making it available for ardent lovers of clean fun.

When he first began working on the DVD conversion, Moulee didn't realise the extent of work it would involve. From colour and audio correction to the nitty-gritty of the whole project, a lot has been done. "This time it is for a worthy cause," says Moulee. He plans to hand over the proceeds to Matha Trust, which runs a Dharmasala inside the Cancer Institute in Adyar.

Buying a "Flight No. 172" DVD enables you to enjoy a timeless comedy and also help in offering succour for the suffering.

"Wherever I've travelled people have asked me about when they would get a chance to watch `Flight No. 172' again ... Laughter is the best medicine, they say. We are giving it to you so that you can help bring a smile on the faces of the distraught," says Moulee.


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