Contest: protest over drama selection

KOCHI MAY 9. Widespread protests have marred the selection of plays for the final rounds of competition for the State Professional Drama Awards.

Many of the drama troupes whose plays have been left out of the final list for the competitions slated to start in Thrissur on May 20 have lashed out at the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi officials, raising allegations of irregularities and nepotism. A major complaint raised by the drama troupes is regarding the inclusion of two troupes that failed to meet the qualifications stipulated by the bylaws of the Professional Drama Award, being instituted by the akademi.

It is pointed out that while the bylaws clearly stipulate that only professional drama troupes registered with the Sangeetha Nataka Akademi under the Charitable Societies and Trusts Act and that have been active for at least two years can compete for the awards, plays by the two troupes, which were formed only in 2001, have been selected for the competition this year.

Talking to The Hindu, Baby Mundadan of Anjali Theatres, Angamaly, said this was in gross violation of the rules concerned. This is part of a conspiracy brewed by some of the akademi office-bearers to protect their vested interests.

Kurianadu Chandran of Amritha Theatres, Angamaly, said the two troupes, namely Aksharakala, Thiruvananthapuram, and Amma Communications, Angamaly, were formed only during last `season'. (A `season' in the professional drama circuit starts from June 1 and ends the next May 31).

Mr. Chandran said the award ensured a play of box-office success in next season, with increased rates and bargaining power. The award-winning play could be assured of at least 300 more stages, this being the major reason for the mad rush for awards among the professional troupes.

Mr. Chandran and Mr. Mundadan said many troupes, including theirs, had already sent complaints to the Cultural Minister regarding the issue and added that they would be taking legal steps to ensure justice. The competition should not be allowed to take place on the slated date with the present list.

They complained that the five-member judging committee finalised the list in a record time, with the final list being released on May 2 even as the last date for submission of scripts was on April 26.

Mr. Mundadan is of the opinion that it was virtually impossible for the judging committee to go through all the 40 scripts in such a short time.

Mr. Chandran pointed out that the play, `Parayi Petta Panthirukulam', selected for the competition, has been in the professional drama circuit for the past six years, even as the rules required a play to be produced in the past one year.

He said the judges should take their time to go through the scripts, adding that it is not mandatory to finish the competitions in a hurry before May 31.

Meanwhile, the appointment of K.L. Mohana Varma, well-known Malayalam writer and novelist, as chairman of the Drama Award Jury is also being questioned.

Sreemoolanagaram Mohan, playwright and secretary of the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi, said that though he had great respect for Mr. Varma as a novelist, his qualification to head the jury is disputable since he has never been directly involved with theatre in any manner.

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