Humanity under the arc-lights

The finale of Short + Sweet South India 2017 saw history, mythology and introspective conflict play out on stage

July 31, 2017 04:39 pm | Updated 04:53 pm IST

Chennai, 31-07-2017, Tamil Nadu. For MetroPlus:  scene from Short and Sweet Theatre Festival, at Alliance Francaise . Photo: Shaju John

Chennai, 31-07-2017, Tamil Nadu. For MetroPlus: scene from Short and Sweet Theatre Festival, at Alliance Francaise . Photo: Shaju John

A smorgasbord of emotions, human drama and identity crisis found its way into the 11 plays staged at Short + Sweet South India 2017, organised by Prakriti and The Blu Lotus Foundation at Alliance Française de Madras. Some took the route of serious theatre. Gunapathy , directed by Meera Sitaraman and scripted by V Balakrishnan (Theatre Nisha) told the story of Gunapathy , son of Shiva, born out of the human head and the body of the elephant. With each intense emotion translating into her body movements, Shakthi Ramani, the actor, was a delight to watch. Rice Water , directed by Regin Rose, used interesting formations on stage to narrate the story of Irom Sharmila through the eyes of her mother. Even though the play handled a familiar political narrative, the director deserves praise for choosing a subject that is always given the least priority in our political agendas. The drum beats added a haunting rhythm to the play. In Auckland , directed by Sandeep John, Krishnakumar Balasubramanian’s solo performance moved many to tears. He enacted a refugee migrating from his home to Auckland, and rebuilding his life from scratch there. The melodramatic quotient could have been toned down, though. If Balasubramanian’s character had enacted the trauma with a numb expression, it would have hit us harder. This year’s edition also saw some interesting formal experimentations. The History Boys used contemporary movements to narrate a condensed history of the Indian freedom struggle. The five boys, donning multiple roles of British officers and sepoys, were brimming with energy. Instead of a monolithic idiom, Mathivanan Rajendran, the director, used different regional tongues and perspectives to tell the story of the nation.

Similarly, Oru Oorla , directed by Antony, also drew applause for the experimentation of shadow play. A sleepy father tells the story of the devil to his adamant child. He recreates impressions of the devil and various devices used by him to trap her on the white screen, using light and shadow play.

Many found relationships and love quite engaging. While Great Sexpectations , directed by Prarthana Chandrasekaran, addressed the ignorance around sex and physicality in our country, Song of Love by Sunil Vishnu addressed the innocence and nervousness of love at first sight. Designed like a musical, it used hip-hop and Carnatic music to add spice to an otherwise common theme. Ill-thakka-saiyya , directed by Kiran Keshav, also was a clinical dissection of love and lust. However, one wished the treatment was more subtle, for an otherwise fascinating topic. The loud humour shrunk its possibilities.

Humour was the favourite device. Thupakki, directed by Vikas Rao, was about gangsters, with Maya Krishan stealing the show as a half-wit side kick to one of the dons . Don’t Call Me Cupid , directed by Anandhakrishnan Janakiraman, offered a subversive twist on the Cupid legend. Two warring girlfriends, and a confused Cupid were enough to crack up the audience. But, one wished the director had not treated the female leads as flighty creatures.

Marriage and Monsters , directed by Krishnakumar Balasubramanian, had a super-man tending to domestic affairs, while his super-woman wife is busy saving the world. The play treated the role-swapping as funny, which made it regressive. The next time our theatre professionals write comedies, they must ask themselves: “Do I want the audience to just laugh or do I want them to appreciate humour?”

Applaud away

Best Ensemble:The History Boys and Song of Love

Best Actor (Male): Krishnakumar Balasubramanian ( Auckland )

Best Actor (Male) Runner-up: Ashley Shillong ( Marriage and Monsters )

Best Actor (Female): Shakthi Ramani ( Gunapathy )

Best Actor (Female) Runner-up: Maya S Krishnan ( Thupakki )

Best Scriptwriter: V Balakrishnan ( Gunapathy )

Best Director: Mathivanan Rajendran ( The History Boys )

Best Production / Mithran Devanesan Award: Song of Love and The History Boys

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