Theatre

Return of the detective

The 'Thuppariyum Saambu' team . Photo: R. Ragu

The 'Thuppariyum Saambu' team . Photo: R. Ragu   | Photo Credit: R_Ragu

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Shraddha revives the popular stage version of Devan's ‘Thuppariyum Saambu’ stories.

It is seven in the evening and rehearsals are on at the drawing room of Shivaji Chaturvedi’s home. I tiptoe inside and ensconce myself on the sofa in a corner. T.D. Sundarrajan, a seasoned helmsman of the troupe, is directing them. The actors are all ears. Shraddha is reviving writer Devan’s unforgettable series of detective stories of the 1930s, ‘Thuppariyum Saambu’ – an evergreen humour collection with rollicking strokes of serendipity running through its warp and weft.



Over the decades, Saambu and his escapades have held readers in thrall. So have stage productions of ‘Thuppariyum …’



Once the rehearsal is over, it is laughathon unplugged! With Kathadi Ramamurthy and Shivaji Chaturvedi around it is a mini-humour club in full swing as they pull each other’s leg and the youngsters enjoy their witty one-liners and repartees. “You saw TD directing, didn’t you? He’s printing my name on the cards as director. Bouquets or brickbats, he should take it.” Kathadi looks serious but he’s just kidding.



“The three of us are in our seventies and if we are still agile and happy, it is theatre’s magic wand in operation,” Kathadi laughs.



Shraddha is steadily carving a niche for itself with innovative themes. With 20 writers and as many subjects so far, and 190 actors in its fold, Shraddha’s plays have generally been different. But this time, it’s a play which has been staged several times earlier with Kathadi himself as Saambu.



“Kathadi, Shivaji, Bobby and I began Stage Creations in 1966. Bobby is no more but the rest of us have continued with SC,” begins TD. Shivaji adds: “Stage Creations has completed 50 years and we’ve staged 47 plays!” Kathadi further explains, “We wish to celebrate it in a grand way through another theatre group of ours — Shraddha. Stage Creations is probably the only troupe that still has its founding members active and going strong.”



“Selecting ‘Saambu’ was Kathadi’s idea,” says Shivaji.



“Did she ask you? I’m sure you volunteer information so that you can blame me if it isn’t received well.” Kathadi’s mock anger and sober countenance have us in stitches. “Actually people have been asking me for ‘Saambu,’ so …” he pauses and looks at Shivaji.



‘…Saambu’ has 27 characters. So far they’ve managed with just seven actors, each playing more than 2 roles, but this time it will have 27 different actors on stage. “We want youngsters to enjoy the experience of doing ‘… Saambu’ with veteran Kathadi and getting familiar with Devan,” TD says.



This play will be shorter than their earlier rendezvous with ‘Saambu’ more than a decade ago. “But the quality isn’t compromised with. We’ve just done away with a few episodes,” Kathadi hastens to add. ‘…Saambu’ is set in the 1930s. So the audience will get to hear the typical lingo of the era. It should be new for them.



Dancer turned stage actor Lavanya Venugopal, who is now into her fourth play with Shraddha, is playing Saambu’s wife Vembu. “I knew nothing about theatre when I came in, but I love working with such stage giants. My husband is very supportive,” she says.



“She is supposed to have left Nairobi, where Venugopal works, for the sake of her son’s education here. But the son is doing very well without her around,” teases Shivaji.



“Auditions for our next play have already begun – Indira Parthasararthy’s ‘Aurangazeb’,” TD butts in.



These septuagenarians are unstoppable!







Shraddha will stage ‘Thuppariyum Saambu’ on June 25 and 26 at Narada Gana Sabha Hall.



Vitality of Youth



I see young people in the hall. “We slowly want to hand over the responsibility to youngsters. Infusing young blood is essential to keep Shraddha’s flag aloft,” says TD, “IT consultant Hariprasad, and chartered accountant Karthik Bhat, to name a couple.” Srinivasan and Rajesh Sainath are packing up. It must have been a hectic evening but passion for theatre binds them together. Pammal Paacha, an experienced actor, isn’t young but is an obvious value addition.



Hitesh, the 11 year-old, a student of PSBB is exuberant. “My ambition is to become an actor.” He means it.



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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 2:33:26 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/Return-of-the-detective/article14425922.ece

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