Theatre

A Kerala family’s weekend play dates

Vellangallore Sudhakaran and his family getting ready to record their weekly play   | Photo Credit: ThulasiKakkat

Every Sunday, around 6 pm, the hall on the first floor of Sudhakaran Vellangallore’s house in Vellangallore near Thrissur transforms into a stage. Sudhakaran and his wife, Bindu, stage a play, that he has written and directed. Their son, Amal Shankar, records it on a mobile phone. The play is then uploaded on his Facebook page, and shared on various WhatsApp groups either the same day or the next morning.

This has been the family’s routine since April 5, 2020. They have not missed a Sunday. Sudhakaran has been active in the theatre scene in Thrissur since 2014 when he joined the city-based theatre company, Rangachetana for a workshop. Organised in association with the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi, the sessions were held on Sundays.

“All of us had been part of Rangachetana,” says 58-year-old Sudhakaran. “A play used to be staged every Sunday. We would get a vibrant audience too. From 2014, until lockdown we had staged 463 plays.”

Lockdown brought all activities to a halt and ET Varghese, founder of Rangachetana, asked members to device ways of keeping this Sunday tradition alive.

A few people have been able to stage plays off and on, but Sudhakaran has been consistent. “I managed to stage a play every Sunday, and now the tally of plays staged, under the aegis of Rangachetana, is at 489. I have not missed a single Sunday,” he says proudly. Posting these on social media was the only way of keeping the movement going and reaching plays to a maximum number of people.

Sudhakaran, is a postal assistant with the Postal Department office in nearby Irinjalakuda. He has written and directed plays for local drama clubs and other organisations.

Since this is a weekly affair, and he has to balance his work commitments and cannot spend too much time on the script.

Nevertheless, stories from literature, current affairs, contemporary events — political and social — figure in Sudhakaran’s plays. Even the people he meets inspire him. “It could be anything. A colleague once told me how her husband expects her to hand over her salary to him, which she does. It struck me, and I wrote a play about it,” he says.

Once he got started, he realised he needed a bigger cast. “Getting people from outside was not an option, I roped in my wife, Bindu,” he says. Bindu, a pharmacist, has no acting experience whatsoever but sportingly, decided to go along. “I think seeing how involved I was, she wanted to help me.”

All hands on deck

Apart from the couple, a neighbour’s six-year-old, Ashwana Parvathy, acted in two plays. ‘Technical’ support comes from their son, Amal Shankar, an undergraduate student, who handles recording and music.

“We discuss the story, the action; then get down to acting and recording it. Time is of essence, if we have to keep the momentum, we have to work like this,” Sudhakaran says.

All plays are kept at under 10 minutes as longer plays take more time to upload. He prepares the stage with curtains (for backdrop) and lights that he has specially bought for the purpose, as also make-up and a stand for the mobile phone.

ET Varghese, or Varghese Master as he is called, regularly enquires about the Sunday performance. “He calls every Saturday to ask if a play is ready.”

Sudhakaran finds pleasure in his Sunday activity, “When I was in high school, drama was the primary source of entertainment. We have walked and cycled great distances to watch a play...it is a part of my life. It is a powerful medium and has been in the forefront of Kerala’s cultural life. It has been integral to political movements and most importantly, it resonates with people.”

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2021 9:18:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/every-sunday-from-april-5-2020-sudhakaran-vellangallore-has-been-writing-directing-acting-staging-and-uploading-plays/article32744015.ece

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