A tribute to 'Crazy' Mohan

Mohan's first priority was friendship: Khanthan

CHENNAI, TAMIL NADU, 23/05/2018: Creative director S.B. Khanthan at Perungudi, OMR. Photo: M. Karunakaran

CHENNAI, TAMIL NADU, 23/05/2018: Creative director S.B. Khanthan at Perungudi, OMR. Photo: M. Karunakaran   | Photo Credit: M_Karunakaran

It was an association built on trust and affection

S.B. Khanthan has been Crazy Creations’ director since its inception in 1979. His association with Mohan, however, began several years earlier. He became the bridge between the Vivekananda College’s theatre talent — spearheaded by ‘Madhu’ Balaji — and Mouli, Khanthan’s brother. “Mouli was at his peak and Mohan was his junior at Guindy College of Engineering. Both walked away with all the drama prizes. To cut a long story short, Crazy Creations was formed when we realised we had a talent pool,” explains Khanthan.

Khanthan remembers the countless days when the trio — Balaji, Mohan and Khanthan — sat on the sands of the Marina and discussed ideas. “We would beat them into shape and Mohan would start writing,” he reminisces.

“The experience I had gained as Mouli’s assistant, who was already making long strides in cinema, made me the natural choice as director for Crazy Creations’ productions. Mohan never breathed down my neck. His job was over after handing over the script. He would join the rehearsals like any other actor would,” says Khanthan. “He was unbelievably unassuming. As we got ready for the stage, he would say beaming, “Hey, it has come out very well, no?’ As if he had nothing to do with it.

“He made sure that new entrants felt at home with us and camaraderie prevailed. All those young people, who were silently working in his house on Tuesday, are our team members,” says Khanthan.

Did they ever differ?

“Of course, we had roaring fights. During shoots and rehearsals. But Mohan never allowed it to sour friendship. The issue would be sorted and everything back on track,” reveals Khanthan.

He remembers the troupe’s three-month U.S. tour.

“We were in the midst of a teleserial and had to hand over 12 episodes before we left. No problem. But I wanted to make sure that we did two more so that we wouldn’t be under pressure when we returned. Mohan agreed but never gave the script. We left for the U.S. There, he told me, ‘Listen, let them go sight seeing. You and I will work on the episodes after our shows.’ Nothing happened. Two days before we left, a trip to Niagara was planned. Mohan said, ‘We are not going in that bus. We’ll work.’ And the next thing I saw was Mohan in the bus. I lost it and a huge fight followed. Everybody froze. Balaji intervened, suggested a cup of coffee and we moved to a shop. There we arrived at a solution and left the cafe smiling. What’s more we got into a car, which reached the Falls first!”

Ahead of his time

Khanthan is sure that Mohan was ahead of his time. “Some of what he said seemed absurd but came true later,” he says. The troupe should have been in Australia now. “Mohan expressed misgivings and opted out. Going without him was ruled out and the tickets were cancelled. We thank God for that,” observes Khanthan, who says Mohan was so prolific that he has left material, which will keep the troupe going for ever.

Mohan hated pathos creeping into the narrative. But it became inevitable when ‘Madhu Plus Two’ took shape. Says Khanthan: “Mohan was not in town for a few days and when he came back, the play was completed. Attending rehearsals, he said, ‘Why Khanthan, this sad scene, remove it.’ I explained that the script demanded it. He kept quiet but made sure that he was not on the stage in that scene. Ironically, his own end has plunged people, across the world, in sorrow. The script couldn’t be altered.”

As postscript, Khanthan said:

“We met an officer at the crematorium the other day. He showed a paper which had a sketch done by Mohan, that of a beautiful young woman walking. We were surprised. He explained: ‘This happened when you all came for Neelu’s funeral. Mohan was sitting in my room while the rituals were in progress. I casually said to him: ‘You are a good artist too, aren’t you?’ Immediately he picked up a paper from my table and started drawing. Within minutes, he finished this picture and gave it to me. I have kept it as a treasure.’

“We were speechless. What a person that touched lives of people in the most unexpected quarters. And we were lucky to be associated with him.”

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 9:14:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/mohans-first-priority-was-friendship-khanthan/article27899555.ece

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