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The drive to be different

"There is no such thing as creativity. Everything is there around us... just waiting to be perceived and recorded," says Bombay Chanakya, writer and director of stage plays and tele-serials.

Bombay Chanakya sure wears blinkers and the only factors that spur him on are writing and directing stage plays and now of course, television serials.

Chanakya began writing even in his school and college days. But call him a creative person and he hastens to disagree ``I don't think there is anything creative in what I do. In fact, there is no such thing as creativity. Everything is there around us ... just waiting to be perceived and recorded." These are not mere self-effacing statements said with humility. It is the philosopher in Chanakya speaking. In fact, right through the conversation, you notice a religious streak, a philosophical bent and candour — all these with the urge to showcase the hypocrisy, foibles and weaknesses he sees, in his plays.

Every theme has been a take-off on what Chanakya has seen or heard. And through them he raises pertinent queries too. If ``Nerudum Uravugal'' questioned the extent to which society can invade into the privacy of a person, ``Agni Vaarpugal'' was based on a real life incident that happened in England, when a woman, driven by circumstances, set her husband ablaze.

"Prannoy Roy reported it in his ``World this Week'' programme on Doordarshan. I saw it and that set me thinking". Later on, K. Balachander told Chanakya that he had wished to do a story himself, based on the idea.

Even with formidable stories and crisp direction, initial acceptance could not have been easy. ``It wasn't. But Rajagopalan of Karthik Fine Arts, who has helped many a new entrant, encouraged me."

When Chanakya landed in Chennai more than a decade ago and saw that there was a dearth of content oriented plays, he decided that his plays would revolve around a strong storyline. From his very first play, ``Nerudum Uravugal'' to "Irandaam Chanakyan", "Asthivaaram'' and ``Meendum Avargal'' which dealt with journalistic ethics, all of Chanakya's 16 plays are serious subjects that are strongly content-based.

Though Chanakya had written and staged a few Tamil and English plays in Mumbai, the change of scene saw him as an actor first, in Marina's troupe, Rasika Ranga. ``I did a small role in his ``61 Vayadhinilae'' but my heart was in scripting, not acting.''

Soon Chanakya began his theatre troupe, Kalamandir. ``To this day this troupe is my strength. I owe a lot to the Kalamandir group. Whether I stage a play or not, they have always been with me", says Chanakya with a tinge of emotion.

But since he is now busy with K.Balachander and his Min Bimbangal, the time he allots for theatre must be very limited. "Frankly, I am not all that busy. Unless when shooting for a serial, when I am up and about at 5.30 in the morning. Otherwise I read or write till 2.30 in the morning.''

Chanakya devotes enough time to theatre and he gets absolute satisfaction from it. Every time Kalamandir stages a play, he is at the venue at least three hours earlier. ``Lighting is very different in my plays. Actually my way of story telling depends entirely on lights. We are the only theatre group, at least in Chennai, to use genuine spotlights. So I see to it I am there", he says.

Things changed a lot for Chanakya, after he met K.Balachander. VRS, who belonged to Cho's drama troupe, was so impressed by Chanakya's ``Irandaam Chanakyan'' that he took him to KB. Earlier others had suggested that Chanakya meet him, but the inhibited, non-outgoing person that he is, he did not pursue the thought. Yet after it did happen, this strong believer in destiny has never looked back. He became part of the Min Bimbangal unit. He has been with the team since the ``Kai Alavu Manasu'' and ``Kaadhal Pagadai'' days, for which he worked on the screenplay and dialogue. Chanakya was the associate director and dialogue writer for ``Premi'' and ``Jannal". He worked as an associate for ``Kaasalavu Nesam", before he was asked to take off on his own with Min Bimbangal's ``Irandaam Chanakyan". All the 51 episodes of "Irandaam Chanakyan'' telecast on Raj TV met with tremendous response. The serial affected some viewers — not all agreed with the different perspective of the Vedas. Chanakya had studied commentaries on the Vedas intently before venturing into the subject. ``There is nothing that our Vedas do not talk about... from Atharvana to atomic energy they contain everything", he says.

It was rather intriguing that the serial gave two different endings with the choice left to the viewers. Chanakya laughs, "Actually it was a ploy. We had to end the serial, with certain questions left unanswered. So to divert viewers' attention, we gave two endings. See... you ask me about the ending and not the sequences that were left hanging.''

All the same, ``Irandaam Chanakyan'' did create ripples and if Chanakya has scored as a director it is because of Balachander, he says. ``My only training was observing his way of working. His wife is my biggest fan", he says with a broad grin.

This avowed bachelor who has never had the time to even think of marriage, ironically deals with marital discord and accord in his writings, effectively. Somehow the pseudonym Chanakya, that he chose for himself, (otherwise he is Raghunath) when he was asked to review plays for a Tamil journal, has augured well for him.

The success of the televised version of ``Irandaam Chanakyan'' is only yet another reiteration. But why the `Bombay' prefix? ``Just an affinity for the place I was born and brought up in...'',smiles Chanakya.

MALATHI RANGARAJAN

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