The stage has been Chandradasan’s life, his passion. He shares some ‘theatre’ moments with Prema Manmadhan
His area of activity these days is the Changampuzha Park, Edappally. Under the shade of the huge trees Chandradasan sits, sometimes alone, sometimes with theatre activist friends, planning activities of ‘Lokadharmi’ and ‘Mazhavillu’. ‘Lokadharmi’ is a theatre group he founded with a group of friends and ‘Mazhavillu’, a children’s theatre group. “It’s peaceful here,” he says as someone brings us two stainless steel glasses of black tea, with ample sugar. Most of the theatre productions are supported by the authorities of Changampuzha Park, where rehearsals are held.
Every Saturday sees ‘Mazhavillu’ kids, all geared up to be in the shoes of some character and looking up to their ‘master’ to help them don them. Neck deep in theatre, the chemistry lecturer at St. Albert’s College has kept theatre going for close to a quarter of a century. The 49-year-old is perhaps one of the few people keeping the dying embers of theatre flickering in the State. Currently the artistic director of Lokadharmi, Chandradasan won the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi award in 2004 for his contribution to theatre.
Where cinema rules the roost, you got to be moulded different to put all your eggs in the theatre basket. Not that Chandradasan has not flirted with cinema.
“I had written a script which was all ready to be made into a film. Aravindan read it, liked it and said he would be the art director too. That was when his tragic end came. I shelved the whole thing, idea included. He stuck to theatre. With 35 plays in Malayalam, English, Sanskrit, Kannada and Tamil behind him, Chandradasan has roots in Kuravilangad where his childhood was filled with a kind of community life. “Our parents were happy if we got decent marks, they never goaded us to get the first rank! There was ambience for free interaction and space to think. Babu Namboodiri Sir (film actor) was my chemistry teacher and his class was excellent. I was influenced greatly by him. When I joined St. Albert’s College in the eighties, there was a vibrant cultural ambience there,” he sums up his early years.
A course in film appreciation allowed Chandradasan to dabble in it. He made a documentary called ‘Marunna Wayanad’ and another on the first Indian nun, ‘Elishwa’. It was for private viewing only. He was assistant director of the serial ‘Sararandal’, directed by Jude Attippetty. “But no small or big screen ventures for me for now. I am happy with theatre,” he declares, with a couple of theatre awards in his kitty. Chandradasan talks of his early theatre days with nostalgia.
The ‘Gramavedi’ at Vallarpadam was his area of activities for some time. People doing all kinds of jobs, from fishing to teaching, found an outlet for their artistic urge at these gatherings. The enthusiasm of common people from all walks of life found expression in the plays they put up. ‘Bhasabheri’ was the first outfit that Chandradasan got going with friends. Later, it was ‘Lokadharmi’. The play ‘Karnabharam’, has been staged 310 times, a record of sorts. People who want to join the movement are free to do so. “But only those who are really interested stay on. Some of them like Selvaraj, who drives an auto, is a powerful actor and there are students like Muthumani, who study, act in movies but stay put in theatre too. Roshan Andrews was active in ‘Lokadharmi’ before he moved on to cinema,” the bearded Chandradasan explains about the movement.
He won the National award for the best play at Mahindra Festival, New Delhi, and also for best play, direction, acting at theatre festivals all over the country, apart from being a resource person in many theatre institutes, and universities.
“I read only material on theatre now. And I do write for a couple of magazines that are wholly devoted to theatre. It is only theatre that interests me now,” reveals Chandradasan. And of course, chemistry, which he has to teach!