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Their world's a STAGE

Two young men have given up plum jobs to invest in theatre. Will it pay off? Meet Karthik and Sunil of Evam


IN AN environment where investment in theatre may seem like courting commercial suicide, two young men are daring to prove otherwise. Karthik Kumar and Sunil Vishnu K. have launched Evam, an entertainment management company that plans to promote theatre in the city. The company will shortly kick off with three English plays ("Art by Evam", "Barefoot in the Park" and "Zoo Story"), the first of which will be premiered tomorrow.

Evam also proposes to provide Chennai with quality entertainment in cinema, short films and musicals. "We guarantee fare that's neither crass nor arty," says Sunil. The two young men believe that, if things work out, they will be successful pioneers in professional entertainment. Theatre is not a new field for these two young men, who had formed a group (Sankalp) when they were students at the Mudra Institute of Communications (Mica). But why did they choose Chennai as their base to launch this business centre? A study of the market revealed the lack of enough theatre activity in Chennai when compared to Mumbai or Bangalore. Hence, the two believe that the city offers untapped potential.

As things stand, Chennai has a couple of English theatre groups and a small number of Tamil amateur players who stay largely with comedy. There are very few serious stage troupes. If anything, it is the tearjerkers on television that have a great appeal with the middle class. Sunil and Karthik refuse to be cowed down by such facts. "We are not here to fight any medium. If the average man wants television, I feel our job is to give it to them. So we are planning a 20-week slot with one story a week, in Tamil, on the lines of Balu Mahendra's `Kadhai Naeram' and Suhasini's `Penn'." That's next on their agenda, after which they plan to enter tinsel town as filmmakers. Work on the television fare has already begun and nearly 10 stories are ready. Cinema, in any case, is not new to Karthik. He was seen in a brief role in "Alaipayuthey" and plays hero in P.C. Sreeram's "Vaanam Vasapadum".

As opposed to the amateur theatre groups, Evam is a professional firm. At the moment, they are slogging to widen the viewer base for English plays. And they know that the student community is a target worth trying. "Today's youth ventures out frequently for entertainment — a cup of coffee at Qwikys, a film at Sathyam or a jig at a disco joint. So now each of these is our competitor. All we are saying is give us a chance too. And pricing our tickets high, we know, is no way to woo them. So we promise quality enjoyment at reasonable rates ... "

Thus from creating to packaging and from promoting to the actual selling, Karthik and Sunil are engaged in every aspect of work. But where does the money come from? After the course at Mica, Karthik and Sunil worked for a couple of years and saved substantially before they took the plunge. And forsaking a secure, cushy job to realise a dream is no ordinary decision. "Sure ... our parents are quite anxious but we are confident it will work." This is the right time to change tack and take off, they feel. "I cannot see myself as a software professional developing a paunch in a couple of years sitting in front of the computer," adds Karthik. They are both 25. If we are not prepared to take risks now, we never will, they say.

Sunil is from Bhopal. His parents live there. He has worked all over the country and has now chosen Chennai for a lucrative livelihood. The cast of their first play "Art by Evam" includes Jimmy, producer, Radio Mirchi, besides Sunil and Karthik. And don't wonder who selects the stories and writes their scripts. Who else but these two? Young men and women with a creative bent can knock at their doors for a response: evam@lycos.com (ph: 31047850)

Preeti Sanjeevi, their junior at Mica, has already joined them. More than money the two are investing a lot of time, energy and talent and things augur well for them. Big names such as HSBC, Nescafe, The Park and RPG figure in their list of media partners and sponsors. "When we go and meet them, we are businessmen, dressed in formals with ties and tucked in shirts. We believe in attire that suits the occasion. Even in our plays we've decided never to compromise on costume. It has to be apt," they say.

Their agenda is clearly chalked out. But with one as ambitious and hardworking as the other, will ego come into play? "We set off together only because we jell well. There's no room for individual ego trips. We can't afford it. Too much is at stake," they chorus.

(Evam's first shows for the public will take place on September 18 and 19 at The Park and on September 26, 27, 28 at the Sivagami Pethachi auditorium. Tickets available at Landmark and Genesis. Or contact 98410-45448)

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