FRIDAY REVIEW

Shot in the arm for theatre buffs

`Crazy' Mohan,

`Crazy' Mohan,  



KAUSALYA SANTHANAM

The Kalaimamani title has boosted the morale of these four stage artistes.

For these men and women who have worked for long years in mainstream Tamil theatre, it is time to take a bow. The Kalaimamani comes as a reward for their dedication in writing/ acting/organising plays or doing all three: For `Crazy' Mohan, who has written 25 plays in the past 27 years, the award for playwright for 2004 comes as "the cherry on the cake." His Crazy Creations won the award for best drama troupe the previous year. "The Iyal Isai Nataka Manram has lent a lot of support to the theatre. Railway tickets given to artistes at concession rates by the Government is a big help as it enables us to stage the plays elsewhere in the State," he says.

No vulgarity

"Humour sans vulgarity is my forte," says this playwright who is also a successful script writer for films. " "Meesaiyanalum Manaivi" and "Jurassic Baby" are my favourite plays. Many writers have moved away from the theatre to cinema and television. But drama is my first and chief love, my moorings are here." Drama is author-oriented so we need more writers to help bring about a resurgence, he feels.A playwright needs a keen sense of observation and has to be a voracious reader, says Mohan who laps up the works of P.G. Wodehouse, O Henry, Ronald Dahl and Kalki Krishnamurthy. Alliteration, malapropism, mistaken identity and exaggeration all feed comedy. "The encouragement I received from the senior members of my joint family, the support of my wife and brother Balaji and the cooperation of my troupe are responsible for my success," says Mohan who sees comedy as essential for the well being of society. "Comedies are a like a duet between the audience and the writer, unlike historical and social plays where the audience merely watch." `Kavithalaya' Krishnan gets the award for drama actor for 2005. "Mohan and I were classmates at the engineering college and I made my debut in "Kollathan Ninaikkkiren," a play he wrote and his troupe presented ," says Krishnan. ``Later, I acted in Crazy Creations' enormously successful `Marriage Made in Saloon.' The two of us, along with Charlie, were introduced to cinema by K. Balachander through `Poik Kal Kudirai,' the remake of `Marriage made in Saloon.' Now by a coincidence all three of us have been chosen for the Kalaimamani," says Krishnan who has won appreciation for his portrayal of diverse roles on the stage, in films and on television. "It was Mohan who first gave me the confidence to act and Balachander who taught me how to. In fact the veteran director has said he always considers me a theatre person though I have not acted in plays for many years."

Pleads guilty

Why has he, like many other artistes, abandoned theatre for television? "I plead guilty. Television pays more and it has greater reach. But the award has made me seriously consider returning to the theatre," says Krishnan who lives in a huge joint family where a slight stigma is attached to acting. "My social credibility has gone up because of the award," he beams.

Pro-women themes

"The Mahalakshmi Ladies Drama Group is unique because it has an all-woman cast (of housewives) with even the male roles being played by women," says Bombay Gnanam who has been given the award in the category of Drama Actress for 2005. The group, of which she is founder-director, has staged 15 plays, all written by Gnanam. "We specialise in thought provoking themes that create social awareness. My themes are mainly pro-women because I'm able to empathise with the problems they face." Gnanam is proud of her playwriting abilities. "But I'm very happy I got the award for drama rather than for the TV serials I act in - in the latter I only do what I'm taught whereas there is more creativity involved on my part in theatre. Finance is the main constraint. We are not able to have good sets owing to lack of funds and also, because many technicians migrate to cinema and TV."Gnanam who is a self- taught artiste and director, says the support of her troupe and the cooperation of the members ' spouses have contributed to their success. The award brings with it greater responsibility, says Gnanam's next play will focus on problems faced by young brides of NRI grooms.Shanti Ganesh who has been recognised as a character actress for 2005, began performing in dance dramas when she was just 12 years old. She was introduced to historical plays by Ra. Palanisamy and was groomed for serious roles in social plays by veteran Poornam Viswanathan, beginning with writer Sujatha's " Dr. Narendiranan Vinoda Vazhakku" in 1981.

Negative characters

Appearing in TV plays from 1982, she has left her imprint on the small screen. " I like portraying negative characters as they provide scope to bring out one's talent," says the actress. "But whatever role you get, you should prove yourself," is the rule she has set for herself in her career. "There is still a lot to learn and a long way to go," says this actress. She is unhappy with the poor audiences for the theatre since the advent of TV. "The eighties to the mid-nineties was a good period for Tamil mainstream drama," says Shanti. Shanti formed her own troupe, Sri Vinayaka Theatre, in 1997 and put up plays based on dance and on Kalki's "Mohini Theevu." The troupe's play, "Production No.1," fetched them an award. Shanti has played quite a few historical characters in TKS' Nataka Manram including the role of Princess Kundavi in "Raja Raja Chozhan" staged during the World Tamil Conference. "The doyens of Tamil theatre R.S.Manohar and V. Gopalakrishnan advised me to never give up the theatre and I have followed their advice," she says.





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