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Giving life to death

"Vinothaya Chitham" defies convention, says PRATHIBHA PARAMESWARAN.


THE THEVAR Hall last Saturday was not exactly jam-packed for a stage performance. Just as theatre shows nowadays perhaps never are.

But the play `Vinothaya Chitham' written by V. Sreevathson, evoked its share of responses much after the play was over and the sets dismantled.

Vinothaya Chitham is inspired by Adi Sankara's Bhaja Govindam and the conversation between an Atma and Yama Dhootha in Garuda Puranam. But it had none of the traits of the plays of the times that culminate in high family drama. Rather, it was a play that defied convention. It had elements that prompted an avid drama script writer from the city to remark, "Never have I seen Death (Yama) or his messengers (Doothas) portrayed in a lively way as this."

Death need not be synonymous with the sober and staid-faced character with a noose ready in hand.

Sreevathson's play just demonstrates how death can be human-like, witty and jocular too.

He also played the lead role of Parasurama Iyer in the play. In his words: "The play is all about convoluted minds-of individuals who deem themselves indispensable to the world, while no one really is."

True, the play was laced with an overtone of the existentialist philosophy which rightly explored the theme without conforming to the usual patterns of dialogue delivery that theatres have long got accustomed to. Even a bit of English blended in so well with the play that one would not have even noticed it. And that is perhaps what made it more appreciable to audience.

Theatre had always been a passion for Sreevathson, a Chartered Accountant, who took to writing plays six years back. Since then, his 18-member troupe has been much acclaimed in theatre circles.

In the recently concluded drama festival organised by Karthik Fine Arts, Vinothaya Chitham bagged six awards including the awards for the best actor, director and play.

Sreevathson's other plays -- (Wo)men's Rea, `Culpable State of Mind,' `13,' `Udyogam Vayasu Lakshanam' and `Koothadi' have also been also equally popular.

But, according to him, Vinothaya Chitham is his masterpiece so far. Drama for him is a live art that communicates to the audience more efficiently than any other form of art. But unfortunately, this art form lacks patronage and sponsorship which some other visual arts like cinema enjoy. Also, the sound and light systems in most stages need an upgradation.

Though still a fresher in the arena, Sreevathson too shares the concern of the other theatre personalities about the impact of visual media pushing theatre away from the mainstream.

"In the north, many theatre personalities like Shabana Azmi and Naseeruddin Shah have returned to the stage, despite being a part of the contemporary Bollywood Cinema. This phenomenon is yet to catch up in the south. Perhaps if more artistes from the visual media come on stage, the theatre culture could be revived," feels Sreevathson.

A play with a difference, Vinothaya Chitham certainly proves that serious theatre audiences are not necessarily conformists.

But they can appreciate variety in theme and form.

Perhaps it sends out another signal too-that theatre needs to be taken more seriously.

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