Friday Review

Re-creating a classic

NEW PERSPECTIVE: ‘Vietnam Veedu’ Sundaram. Photo: K.V. Srinivasa  

Age hasn’t withered his passion for writing. Nor has it allowed him to rest on past laurels. At every turn of our tête-à-tête, septuagenarian ‘Vietnam Veedu’ Sundaram proves that as a creator, he is still a name to reckon with. When he first narrated the story of ‘Vietnam Veedu’ to Sivaji Ganesan, the visibly impressed thespian described him as a trendsetter. The passion to venture into untraversed terrains continues unabated. Vietnam House production ‘Macbeth,’ in mime, is all set to be staged on August 5 and 6, 7.15 p.m. to 8.30 p.m., at Smt. Sivagami Pethachi Auditorium, Mylapore, Chennai.

Though theatre and cinema have been his forte, ‘Macbeth’ will be different. “This English play will be a faithful representation of Shakespeare’s immortal work. The narration and dramatisation are in my style,” he says.

The show opens with a soliloquy by Sundaram’s pen. The instrument with which he secured a hat trick (‘Vietnam Veedu,’ ‘Gnana Oli’ and ‘Gauravam’) and more, celebrates its 60th year of ‘writing.’ “My mother got this pen for me 65 years ago for eight ‘annas,’ because she thought her son would become a great scholar one day. Poverty didn’t allow the dream to become a reality. But five years later, at age 13, I began writing stories and plays. ‘Macbeth’ is also my way of remembering my mother. August 5 is her death anniversary.”

Sravanth T.R. of MacTrics, a mime and body theatre group, is directing ‘Macbeth.’ “My nephew, Sridhar, introduced Sravanth to me. I see a spark in him,” Sundaram tells me.

Macbeth on stage

Sundaram’s ‘Macbeth’ begins with Shakespeare and his wife discussing the story, and as she raises queries about the plot, the play gains shape. Madhuvanthi Arun plays Shakespeare’s wife Anne Hathaway, Sundar Subramaniam is Shakespeare, small screen actor Rani is Lady Macbeth and Vikas, Macbeth. The MacTrics team will ‘form’ the sets on stage.

“From childhood I’ve had a complex about my lack of formal English education. I tried to make up for it by reading whatever came my way and constantly seeking help from those who know.” Sundaram’s thirst for knowledge and acquisition of it was so intense that he went on to write a remarkably authentic crime story with an astute lawyer at the fulcrum. The film is the ever-fresh Sivaji starrer, ‘Gauravam.’ “S. Rangarajan of The Hindu, who financed the film, was my strength and support,” he recalls.

From childhood Sundaram would read all classics he could lay his hands on. So when he decided to present a Shakespearean play in mime, ‘Macbeth,’ he found, lends itself beautifully to it. He hopes to create a Guinness Record – “So far Macbeth has been mimed only in Japanese, but never in English.”

During the period of Sivaji Ganesan and MGR, Sundaram’s career scaled the peak. “After them, I lost my identity. My name and prefix seem to have little relevance today. For the first time I comprehend the meaning of generation gap.

Till Sivaji Ganesan’s time I lived, after him I just exist. Television did open new vistas, but opportunities are few and far between.” Frank to a fault, Sundaram doesn’t mince words when he talks about his hits and misses.

“I realise the need to re-invent myself. I may be old but my thoughts are still new. I haven’t retired, nor am I tired. ‘Vietnam Veedu’ was inspired by my father’s life. Soon I plan to make a serial on my mother Siddhartha’s life. But, for the moment my focus is on ‘Macbeth.’”

Morale booster

The message from the former President Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, lauding the effort and wishing ‘Macbeth’ success, has been a shot in the arm for ‘Vietnam Veedu’ Sundaram. He reads it out to me and says, “Trials and tribulations notwithstanding, God grants me the best. Sivaji Ganesan took me to the zenith of glory and now Dr. Kalam whom I see as a re-incarnation of Socrates in drawing promising youngsters towards him, has honoured me with this note. ‘Kalyana Maalai’ Mohan and Sakthi Perumal of Delhi Tamil Sangam made it possible.”

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2022 8:03:44 PM |

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