Stage, Service and Sahasranamam

Recognition: (Clockwise from top left) Tha Pandian, actors Sivakumar and P.S. Sachu being honoured at the SVS Centenary event. Photos: P.R. Durai   | Photo Credit: GRJGM

Could an artist have been so socially conscious, so selfless to take a back seat and promote the other members of his troupe and so completely committed to the cause of theatre? “Leaf through the pages of his autobiography, ‘Thirumbi Paarkiraen,’ and you will understand the virtues of the man,” said poet and painter S. Vaitheeswaran, about his father-in-law S.V. Sahasranamam. Reiterating it, Sahasranamam’s son, S.V.S. Kumar, in his vote of thanks said, “Though Seva Stage was his own troupe, he took up only characters that suited his age. That was the reason for many film heroes such as Muthuraman emerging from there.” Veterans such as Sivaji Ganesan had acted in Seva Stage’s plays, which was also the training ground for heroines such as Devika.

Lofty ideals

The journey through the lofty ideals and purposeful life of Sahasranamam was a worthy revelation for the audience gathered at Sivagami Pethachi Auditorium, on Friday last. The celebration marked the birth centenary of ‘Bharati Kalaignar,’ as he was known. His love and passion for Bharatiyar’s verses were exemplified in Seva Stage’s plays, ‘Panchali Sabatham’ and ‘Kuyil Paattu.’

“Those were the times when plays were staged on all 365 days of the year. I still remember watching ‘Vadivelu Vathiyaar,’ and Muthuraman as Duriyodhana in ‘Panchaali Sabatham.’ The performances of the actors of Seva Stage fascinated me,” recalled Nalli Kuppuswamy, the chief guest of the evening.

In those days, every Sahasranamam play – ‘President Panchaksharam’ or ‘Thaerotti Magan’ - was extolled as a gem. “It was the golden age of theatre and lasted till the early 1970s,” noted Vaitheeswaran. When it was mentioned that the scripts of many of the plays have been lost, the veritable sigh from the audience said it all. Solid stories with values seamlessly blended, and denouements that left deep impression on viewers, were the order of the day. Some of Seva Stage’s productions were made into everlasting films too – ‘Policekaaran Magal’ for example.

Each of the playwrights of the era were stalwarts. On the occasion, writer Komal Swaminathan was remembered with awe! Many actors and writers of SVS’s troupe, including P.R. Durai, who traced the birth and growth of Seva Stage, and playwright and emcee of the evening, Chandramohan, were honoured.

A politician being a part of the event was intriguing. But when Tha Pandian said the invitation surprised him too and went on to speak about Sahasranamam’s patriotism and the respect he commanded from Communist leader Jeeva, the connect was clear. “Sahasranamam’s Seva Stage was like a banyan tree offering shelter to fledglings that hoped to fly high. He wasn’t recognised enough,” Pandian contended.

“I’ve had the privilege of acting with him in three films, and the first among them was ‘Jeevanamsam.’ Sahasranamam was a devotee of Bharati and Mahatma Gandhi. He staged 40 plays and all of them were masterpieces,” observed actor Sivakumar, in his special address. As always without a single piece of paper for reference, the actor-orator presented significant aspects of Sahasranamam’s life, particularly his affection and loyalty to his colleague, N.S. Krishnan, during the most trying period of the latter’s life. “I’m dwelling on details only because I can make out that the crowd here is elderly and mature and can appreciate Sahasranamam’s contribution to the stage and to society,” he said.

“Theatre was like a penance for Sahasranamam. He didn’t expect rewards or accolades for it. He went about serving the stage till the end,” he added.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 5:07:44 PM |

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