FRIDAY REVIEW

Carving a niche for himself

Record artiste S.Ve. Shekher.

Record artiste S.Ve. Shekher.   | Photo Credit: Photo: R. Ashok

A. D. RANGARAJAN

With 24 plays and 5,300 stage shows to his credit, actor S.Ve. Shekhar attributes his success to the dedicated audience.

An artiste on stage lunges at the other, while the third, a passer by, stops him and shouts, “Hey, do you think you are Harbhajan?” sending the audience into peals of laughter. Can a scene get any further contemporary?

Before we rue that the theatre is in doldrums and even go to the extent of blaming the audience for lacking taste, it is pertinent to look at the success story of a stage artiste who has given a whopping 5300 plus stage shows in a career spanning three-and-a-half decades.

S.Ve. Shekher is an artiste who has a place for himself in the theatre circle and also in the film industry. However, he has restricted himself to limited roles in films and concentrated more on theatre.

Sattanathapuram Venkatraman Shekher reveals in an interview how his troupe ‘Natakapriya’ could achieve what was propagated by his sceptics as impossible. Founded in 1973 in Chennai, Natakapriya has so far conceived and staged 24 plays, from Delhi to Tiruvananthapuram and even abroad. Interestingly, all the 24 were full-length comedy plays, with the playwright-turned-director S.Ve. Shekher as the protagonist tickling the viewers’ funny bone. It became the first troupe from South India to perform stage plays in the U.S., Canada, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia for seven months at a stretch.



Natural choice

With a diploma in mechanical engineering and a PG diploma in air-conditioning and refrigeration, Shekher did not have his sights set elsewhere. Also being an amateur photographer, videographer, sound recording expert and a programme producer made him embrace theatre without a second thought.

Shekher thanks the dedicated audience in Chennai for the success of his plays. Though the number of cultural associations in Chennai has dwindled from 150 to a mere 15 in a decade, Shekher is still busy on the stage, the only difference being that the daily shows have become weekend performances. “Though there is a paradigm shift in their preferences and the changing work culture, the entertainment option for the traditional denizens of the metropolis is still the theatre, at least on Saturdays and Sundays,” he says. His brief role as Aishwarya Rai’s dad in the film Jeans gingered up the narration. Not many know that Shekher worked for the promotion of the Chiranjeevi-Jayaprada starrer 47 Rojulu (47 Naatkal in Tamil).

Thirst for records

His thirst for records is too great to be satiated in one go. He got into the Limca Book of Records for the ‘Maximum plays in a day’ by performing eight full-length plays in 18 hours in April 1985, with Shekher changing costumes for 88 times. Similarly, a one-man show Shekher meets Shekher on Sun TV in 1994 got him a slot in the book again for playing the role of an interviewer and also the interviewed, which was considered a intricate technical feat never shown on the TV till then. He got 32 of his books released by the AIADMK leader J. Jayalalitha in 2004, thus creating a record for the ‘Most books released on a day’.

Shekher is now an AIADMK legislator. “I am already rendering social activities through an NGO, Sri Sukar Public Charitable Trust, and politics is just another option to reach out to the people,” he says.

With a dedicated Shekher and his clan working for the uplift of the Tamil theatre, is there a leaf or two that the Telugu stage artistes can take out to replicate here?



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