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‘Raktharakshas’ in Tamil

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Pioneering experiment The Kalanilayam troupe rehearsing at the Kalanilayam Drama Vision camp in Kochi
Pioneering experiment The Kalanilayam troupe rehearsing at the Kalanilayam Drama Vision camp in Kochi

Kalanilayam plans to stage a dubbed version of ‘Raktharakshas’ in Tamil

For a month Coimbatore will be in the grip of sorcery, black magic, demons and vicious spirits. A Tamil version of ‘Raktarakshas,’ one of the most popular plays in the repertoire of Kalanilayam Drama Vision, will come alive on the huge proscenium at VOC grounds in June.

And for the first time in its long, ‘dramatic’ history, Kalanlayam will stage a play in Tamil.

Kalanilayam, set up by Krishnan Nair and Jagathy N. K. Achary more than three decades ago, stopped after the death of the two pioneers. After an interval, when their sons Ananthapadmanabhan and Jagathy Sreekumar decided to revive the movement, they returned to the same repertoire of the plays.

“Even during my father’s time Kalanilayam used to have regular touring camps in various States. But the plays presented were always in Malayalam. This will be the first time that we will be experimenting with a Tamil play. Reviving this movement was a huge challenge. We had to start from scratch. But this venture has been much more demanding,” says Anananthapadmanabhan, who turns director with this play now renamed ‘Raktakatteri.’

Reworking the play

The entire play has been reworked. “The plot, sequences, characters are the same. We have incorporated a couple of dream sequences, made choreography more colourful, on the whole a bit melodramatic. The songs, except our title song, ‘Salkala devi…,’ have all been recorded in Tamil.

“The dubbing was done in Chennai using professional artistes. This is perhaps the first Malayalam play to be dubbed and performed in another language.”

For the actors and technical support staff also this Tamil version of one of their popular plays will present a big challenge.

“Acting in Kalanilayam is itself a different experience. We do have a little bit of lip synching in our plays now, but doing it for a full play is going to be a new experience. But with the team work here we are sure to put up a good show,” feels Salim Kumar, one of the 90-odd actors in the group.

‘Raktakatteri’ will be a test dose, a sort of base on which Kalanilayam hopes to build. This will be the platform from where they expect to launch more plays in various Indian languages. “Some of the senior dubbing artistes I met in Chennai were simply bowled over by the play. They confessed that dubbing for a play was a first-time experience. It brought back memories, they said, of their own theatre days. Initially, we have to use the dubbed dialogues. But soon, I would like to see our own actors speaking Tamil. The actors are slowly working in this direction,” says Ananthapadmanabhan.

Theatre has not witnessed such a thorough professional performance, one that improves after every night’s show. Kalanilayam aims to fill that slot. And now that it embarks on going beyond the present repertoire this troupe is set for a new innings.

K. PRADEEP

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