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Bouquet of interesting plays



Narayana Gopala ... by veteran Koothapiran's troupe depicted the eternal fight between the Good and the Evil. — Pics. by R. M. Rajarathinam

THE GOOD turnout during the weeklong drama festival organised jointly by the Department of Arts and Culture, Government of Tamil Nadu, and the Rasika Ranjana Sabha of Tiruchi, proved that there is still a good following for theatre in this town. The drama troupes from Chennai, Coimbatore, Neyveli, Tiruchi, Pudukkottai, Tiruvannamalai and Manapparai were more than convinced that despite the challenges from cinema, satellite TV channels and local cable TV channels, the public is interested in good theatre performances. As N. Sekhar, secretary of the R. R. Sabha said, theatre in India belongs to the common man, who wants to identify himself with the characters on stage, forgetting himself, his dreams, greed and foibles, and contemplating on his own hopes.

The festival got off to a colourful and flying start with the Therukkoothu, `Draupadi Vastra Apaharanam'.

The singer/drummer, mini-Nagaswaram player, harmonist etc. as well as the audience found it a little difficult to tune their voice and instruments within the hall, even though the mike was tuned to the lowest level. The mythological plays, `Satyavan-Savithri' by Pudukkottai Muthamizh Mandram and `Harischandra' by the Manapparai drama troupe of Krishnappa were absorbing. The audience was surprised at the variety of background drapes, and the speed at which there were changes between scenes.

`Poorna Swathanthiram' of Coimbatore KRS troupe was a powerful drama depicting a highly patriotic and disciplinarian teacher tackling his own son and daughter, who could not live up to his high values.



A scene from the Tamil play, Harischandra, presented by the Manapparai group.

The drama, was set in the modern, corrupt and unprincipled world, and the dialogue was scintillating, oozing out nationalism and criticism of today's world. K. S. Krishnan (Ganapathi, teacher/hero) and his troupe during the past 38 years have staged over 2,500 shows in all the southern states, and the play `Poramai' has been staged a record 204 times.

`Soorya Namaskaram' by Annai Nataka Mandapam of Tiruchi, led by Muhammed Masthan dealt with a powerful theme, portraying how a reformed criminal was disillusioned with the society that refused to accept him, though he was a changed man.

The historical play, `Man Maanam' by Senthamizh drama troupe of Neyveli depicted Aurangazeb's ascendancy to the throne after killing his brothers, and how the Mughal king respected the spirit of Independence exhibited by a king of the south. The drama was short and sweet, and the audience felt they could have been entertained for another hour. The play was directed by Sadhuraja alias Chandrasekhar, and written by P. Sivalingam.

The doyen of Tamil drama, Koothabhiran, and his Chennai Navabharath troupe, delighted the audience on the last day with a brilliant modern story, `Narayana Gopala,' depicting the eternal fight between the good and the evil. The audience gave a standing ovation when the heroine, Lakshmi rendered two devotional songs during the course of the play.

T. V. Krishnamoorthy, the 85-year-old doyen of theatre who had won much appreciation for his female roles in the plays staged by Nawab Rajamanickam in the early 1940s, and has worked as drama producer in All India Radio, Tiruchi, for 36 years, praised the organisers for reviving theatre and encouraging the participating troupes. The plays also carried powerful messages on values in life, he said. Referring to the relatively small turnout of youth in the audience, he said steps could be taken to organise drama clubs in schools and also conduct inter-school drama competitions to encourage their participation. R. Gunasekaran, Regional Director, Art and Culture, Government of Tamil Nadu, said similar drama festivals would be organised in Salem and Coimbatore.

V. GANAPATHY

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