On a winning streak

Theatre person Manoj Narayanan Photo: S.Ramesh Kurup   | Photo Credit: S. Ramesh Kurup

When the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi announces its awards annually, there is one name that crops up, year after year. That name, Manoj Narayanan, was there this time around too.

Manoj won the award for the best director – for the fifth year in a row. “I guess it could be a record. I don’t know if any other director has won it as many times in succession,” he says.

It was for Nntooppappakkoranendarnnu that he won the award this year. It was, in fact, his sixth Akademi award for the best director.

The first came nine years ago, for Kadathanattamma. That play had also won Usha Chandrababu the award for the best actress.

This year too, it was Manoj’s play that won the awards for acting. While Cicily Joy and Anitha Selvi won the honours for the best and the second best actresses for their roles in Nntooppappakkoranendarnnu, Mani Mayambilli won the award for the best actor in another play Manoj directed, Kadathanadan Pennu Thumbolarcha. And there have been many other actors who won the top acting honours for performing in his plays down the years.

“For Kadathanattamma, besides Usha, Rajani Meloor had won the special jury award, while Rathnamma Madhavan was chosen as the second best actress that year, for another play of mine, Kadavathil. The others who won the Akademi awards for acting in my plays include Noushad ( Thacholi Othenan), Jaya Noushad ( Nellu), Sandhya Murukesh and Murukesh Kakkur ( Kuriyedath Thathri) and Radhan Kannapuram ( Perunthachan),” he says.

He is very much an actor’s director, then, isn’t he?

“It is true that I get the best out of an actor. I am very careful while I begin casting for a new play. I try to get actors whom I find it comfortable to work with,” he explains.

He also finds it enjoyable working with children. “I have always loved children’s theatre. I often conduct workshops for them and also direct plays regularly for the State School Arts Festival. Though I turned professional 12 years ago, I continue to associate with children’s as well as amateur theatre,” says Manoj.

It was his days as a young boy who was an active member of the amateur theatre of Villiappally, a village near Vadakara where he grew up, that made him love drama. “There were troupes like Sundara Kalasamithi that regularly put up plays. They were all very well organised, too. And we used to have big crowds watching our plays,” he recalls. He now finds such enthusiasm for theatre in the Middle Eastern countries. “It is heartening to see the response when I direct plays in those countries. They are all very passionate and you would find many women coming forward to act in theatre,” he says. Back home in Kerala, he points out, it is difficult to get women to appear on the stage. “We do not have enough young women to act in theatre. Often much older women have to play the roles of young girls. There also has to be better pay in theatre; you cannot live by passion alone,” he says.

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Printable version | Oct 22, 2021 4:15:23 AM |

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