KERALA

With a passion for the theatre

Amateur theatre and painting are in a state of extinction for want of patronage. The audience base for serious plays is dwindling and committed playwrights have very few avenues to express their creative acumen, says S. Janardhanan who has won the Sahitya Akademi award for the best playwright in 2004.

Janardhanan excelled in theatre but was compelled to stray into television for subsistence. Since the age of 19, Janardhanan has been running an amateur troupe, Kalikoottam, in Thiruvananthapuram and has toured the State staging classics in different languages. He was running the troupe single-handedly and finding money to produce plays regularly was rather a tough proposition. Television serials then came as a blessing providing a consistent source of income.

"If theatre is a passion that kindles my imagination and intellect, television is a profession that takes cares of my material needs. I took to serials mainly to fund my plays. Theatre is the most responsive medium and it has the potential to effectively reach out to the masses. The fine arts societies and libraries that were once the hub of cultural activities, have now drifted to mimicry and cinematic dance to cater to the popular demand. Consequently, theatre became a casualty," he says.

A Ph.D. in `Thematic and theatrical developments of Hindi drama,' Janardhanan has written a number of plays but could only publish two collections, `Jagannathanu Enthu Sambavichu' and `Viralpadu,'. "Publishing houses are not keen on bringing out plays as they are not commercially viable. Ultimately, the creative instincts of a playwright die a natural death," says Janardhanan.

It was his brief association with the director Lenin Rajendran that opened the aisle to cinema. When Lenin directed the play, `Avastha' Janardhanan had assisted him. Later, he was involved in the making of `Deivathinte Vikruthikal' too, directed by Lenin. Janardhanan strived to be different while making serials and the telefilm, `Samaksham' won him five State awards including those for the best director and scenarist.

Though a world of change cannot be expected in the making of television soaps that are being churned out with an eye on the commercials and the family audience, mainly women, Janardhanan is confident of instilling fresh ideas in them too. "Serials can no more be dismissed off as mere trash or tear-jerkers. The making is becoming more cinematic. With the increase in the number of productions, there is an urge to compete and do something unique. All these have had a telling effect on their quality too," he says.

After scripting and directing 15 serials, he does not forget the reality that it is a race against time. The thrust is on making more episodes in a limited time and not on quality fare. "Compromises are imperative and the one who can dish out the real entertainer only would keep afloat," he says.

At present, he is getting ready to do a film, `Maha Samudram' with Mohanlal in the lead. He is fine-tuning its script.

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