TRIBUTE Ambi Iyer, who was an integral part of R.S. Manohar’s theatre troupe, worked till his last day. S. SHIVPPRASADH

On November 7, Tamil theatre lost one of its unsung heroes -- Seranmadevi Annaswamy Sivaraman Iyer better known as Ambi Iyer. He was an integral part of R.S. Manohar’s troupe National Theatres. In fact, he was Manohar’s right-hand man and one of the pillars of the group along with Mahadeva Iyer, K. Jagadeesa Iyer and Kumaran Nair.

Ambi Iyer was born at Kovilpatti in 1942. When he was eight, he joined the Thanjavur Ayyappa Nataka Sabha and acted as Agasthiar in ‘Sampoorna Ramayanam,’ along with K.A. Thangavelu who was his first make-up man. Then he joined Lakshmi Nataka Sabha and acted in ‘Kandi Raja’ with T.K. Ramachandran and V.K. Ramasamy. Later, he joined Sri Murugan Nataka Sabha.

Ambi was with National Theatres since its inception in 1954. He played a pivotal role in the implementation of ‘Super Drama Scope’ thus providing audience with a 35 ft. stage, for the play ‘Sukrachariyar.’ Extremely quick on his feet and adept at track shots, Ambi could single-handedly do the work of three technicians put together. In 1980, The Hindu’s review of ‘Siva Thandavam’ made a special mention of Ambi’s superb direction.

Ambi was a man of courage. His love for theatre was such that he was willing to risk everything for a stage show. In fact, in 1979, Ambi had a miraculous escape when the thatched roof of the building where he and five other technicians were preparing the stage for a play, collapsed.

Although childless, Ambi was always surrounded by children as his work involved setting the stage for Annual Day celebrations at schools as well as special occasions such as Children’s Day and Teachers day.

Till the very end, Ambi kept on working, carrying on his mentor Manohar’s work and legacy. His scarred hands spoke volumes of his dedication to work.

Here was a man who sacrificed his life for theatre, and passed away unsung and in penury. Isn’t it time for the Government to recognise his service to the arts, albeit posthumously?

( His wife Seethalakshmi, who has moved in with a relative, can be contacted at 97910 15824.)