Friday Review

It is a ‘golden’ milestone

S.N. Parvathy, Delhi Ganesh, Kathadi Ramamurthy (centre) and Shivaji Chaturvedi Photo: S. R. Ragunathan

S.N. Parvathy, Delhi Ganesh, Kathadi Ramamurthy (centre) and Shivaji Chaturvedi Photo: S. R. Ragunathan  

A crucial scene is playing out on stage. An actor receives a telegram informing him that his wife is dead! But instead of showing grief and shock, he bursts into laughter. Perplexed, the other actor desperately tries to get the scene back on track, grabs the telegram from him and the gibberish written in it has him in stitches too!

An actor walks to the proscenium calling out to his wife and hears titters from the audience. He turns around to see the stray dog which he had been feeding regularly near the venue, standing behind him wagging its tail.

The actor says, “The coffee tastes good,” but is unable to drink it as floating on its surface are cigarette butts. “Can I have some water,” the dialogue goes and as he starts drinking, he realises there is an overdose of salt in it.

The group continues to recall their japes and bloopers on stage, most of which were thanks to Shivaji Chaturvedi, a founder member of the troupe, it’s a laugh riot sprinkled with nostalgia at his home in Nungambakkam, where members of Stage Creations have gathered for a rehearsal of the play, ‘Dowri Kalyana Vaibogamey,’ written and directed by Visu. These septuagenarians’ memory for dialogue and their acumen for modulation are amazing.

‘Dowri Kalyana …’ is being revived on the occasion of the golden jubilee celebrations of Stage Creations which was kick-started in 1966. Shraddha, which again is the brainwave of the same group of aficionados, celebrated the event a few months ago with ‘Thuppariyum Saambu.’

Running a Tamil theatre troupe successfully for 50 years is a feat. But Stage Creations has other credits too. After UAA it is the second amateur troupe to reach this landmark, but while UAA began with YGP, after whom Mahendra continues to hold the banner aloft, in the case of Stage Creations, Shivaji and ‘Kathadi’ Ramamurthy, its founders, with TDS and ‘Bobby’ Raghunathan, (who is no more) are still its helmsmen, though Kathadi is considered the face of Stage Creations. “Bobby’s passion for theatre and commitment to Stage Creations were immense. He played the father in ‘Dowri Kalyana …’ and was an asset for the troupe,” remembers Shivaji. “Even today, more than a decade after his death, Stage Creations announces his name as producer.”

The troupe has introduced several playwrights and actors who have shone in cinema. “We’ve staged 47 plays so far. After every two or three plays I bring in a new writer to lend variety and fresh perspectives,” says Kathadi.

Visu, who carved a niche for himself in films as actor/writer, and wielded the megaphone for many films, debuted as director with Stage Creations, and ‘Delhi’ Ganesh, who entered the Chennai’s theatre scene with ‘Dowri ...’ are cases in point.

“I owe a lot to Kathadi,” begins Ganesh. “‘Dowri Kalyana …’ made me a known face on the theatre circuit.” Soon Stage Creations’, ‘Pattina Pravesam’ provided Ganesh a straight ticket to K.Balachander’s camp. “Three of our plays, including ‘Dowri Kalyana …’ have been made into films and I replicated the roles on the big screen. Stage Creations is an integral part of my life. So here I am. We are never driven by ego or jealousy. If somebody from Stage Creations becomes popular, Kathadi is only too happy. I’ve been a part of the troupe for very long and despite film commitments I join them whenever possible.”

“That’s the reason for our being together all these years,” joins in S.N. Parvathi, who shuttles between television and cinema, but still continues with Stage Creations, like Ganesh does. Others refer to her as SNP (“Jaishankar was the first to call me so.”). She’s been with many troupes but Stage Creations is home turf for her. “She and Srilalitha were with us for 18 years continuously, a record for female stage actors. I can ring the third bell and confidently begin the play even if Parvathi hasn’t arrived because I know she would enter the scene at the right moment,” says Kathadi. Another bankable actor for Stage Creations is Prema Sadasivam who steps into any role as a substitute, whenever required.

“Straddling cinema and theatre can be very challenging, but I’ve managed it all these years,” smiles Parvathi. She would make it clear to her directors that she would have to leave the shooting spot at the stroke of five. “Those were the days when we were staging 38 shows a month! The affection with which Kathadi takes care of us members is a reason for Stage Creations’ success. Kathadi and the troupe will continue to fly high.”

“Parvathi’s right. It isn’t easy. But now I’ve reached a stage where I can request the director to let me off in time for the plays. In fact, Vishal’s new film in which I’ll be playing his father goes on the floors on the 19th. I have to be at Stage Creations on three evenings from October 21, for ‘Dowri Kalyanam …’ I have informed them,” adds Ganesh.

Why did they zero in on ‘Dowri Kalyana …’ for the occasion? “We wanted to bring in as many actors as possible,” says Kathadi, “and after ‘Thuppariyum Sambu’ which has nearly 30 characters, it is ‘Dowri …’ with 18.”

Stage Creations does not rest on its laurels. “We are assiduously infusing young blood into the troupe,” says Kathadi. “Nowadays I don’t get into the nitty-gritty of production. Srinivas and Naanu take care of them. I want Stage Creations to go on forever. With youngsters taking on the mantle, it will, though finding a replacement for Kathadi may not be all that easy,” he quips.

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Printable version | Aug 11, 2020 4:52:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/It-is-a-%E2%80%98golden%E2%80%99-milestone/article16076731.ece

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