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Bring Children To Watch Plays

Published in Express Buzz, 26 March 2009

“Please bring children along with you to watch plays,” is the message from the playwright Raadhu for World Theatre Day.

Raadhu started writing plays from 1962 and has written 46 plays for various troupes. “I’m an ardent lover of dramas. My first play was Jayam Namadae. That was the time of Indo-Chinese war and it was to raise funds for it,” says Raadhu. After joining in Young Men’s Indian Association’s fine arts wing, Raadhu acted as well as produced plays. He started Mayan Theatres in 1974, which has staged more than 4,000 plays in India and abroad. Raadhu on a single day staged Kalyanathil Galatta, a comedy play for seven times in 1988. “The play got me a good recognition,” says Raadhu. He was instrumental in reviving daily theatre in Chennai and his play Ithu Enrum Thodarum was staged for 100 days continuously in a single venue. “Last year I staged my play Kettalae Athuruthula. It’s about section 498(A). If you’re doing serious plays you need committed artistes and it has come down. There’s also a need for female artistes, but we don’t have enough of them,” explains Raadhu, who is also the founder of Nataka Academy, an institution that promotes theatre in Chennai since 1992. According to him, genuine drama lovers have migrated to suburban areas where it is inconvenient to stage plays. “I’m writing a script for actor Radha Ravi and also for another troupe,” informs Raadhu, who in his 46 year career have written 46 dramas. “My mother used to take me to dramas and that’s how I got interested in plays. Parents should encourage children and should bring them along to watch plays,” adds Raadhu.

ARS

This veteran theatre artiste took up stage in 1964. His debut play as artiste was also the debut play of former chief minister J Jayalalithaa. “They play was called Under Secretary and was by UAA (United Amateur Artists)”, remembers A R Srinivasan alias ARS, who is currently acting in serials like Rudra and Naanal.

“That was the time the three-letter initials were very famous. UAA’s founder YGP suggested the name ARS and that’s how I came to be known as ARS. My first directorial venture was Kannan Vanthan, which was made into the Sivaji-starrer Gouravam,” says ARS, who has directed about 17 plays and appeared on stage for more than 3,000 performances. Talking about his film journey from stage, ARS says, “Director Sridhar came to preside one of the plays and he saw me. That was my entry into th film industry. I started with Oh Manju in 1976. The competition in theatre was frightening in those periods and we had to do something extraordinary to attract the audience.”

According to ARS, when television came into existence, theatre talent went into that medium. “Traffic snarls and electronic media can be attributed for the decreasing number of theatre audience at present. But really good plays attract the audience,” says 75-year-old ARS, whose Gurushethram, directed by Mouli and Imperfect Murder by Raman are close to his heart. “Cinema was always my hobby. But whatever I took I did it seriously,” he says.

‘Kathadi’ Ramamurthy

The name immediately evokes laughter. His sense of humour and timely delivery of dialogues made the artiste very popular. His character name was Kathadi in Cho’s If I Get It and ever since then he is fondly called as ‘Kathadi’ Ramamurthy. He started his troupe Stage Creations in 1964. “Dedication is very important for this profession. Unlike serials and films, you don’t have prompting here. Not only female artistes, it’s very difficult even to get male artistes for the plays,” says Kathadi, who has given more than 6,000 appearances on the stage.

His first serial was Ellam Inba Mayam for DD. “My recent play Ninachadhu Onnu deals with the pluses and minuses of IT sector,” says Kathadi, who is also acting in serials like ‘Thirupavai’ and ‘Poi Solla Porom’. “Even if I speak serious issues on stage, people take it as comedy,” says 71-year-old Kathadi, who still acts as hero in his plays. What’s the secret? “You come and watch my play Ayya, Amma, Amamma at Krishna Gana Sabha on April 14 at 7 pm,” answers Kathadi.

V S Raghavan

“I wanted to be a journalist and also worked as sub editor in Malathi magazine for three years, and then I joined the printing press,” remembers the veteran theatre personality Raghavan.“My first stage appearance was for a Hindi drama. That was the time of Hindi movement,” says Raghavan, whose debut movie was Vairamalai. He formed INA Theatres along with his friends Mali, Vadiraj, K D Nataraj, K Balachander, A V Venugopal, T N C Vijayaraghavan, K C Sampath Kumar and others.

“We introduced one-set play titled Chathurangam (a game of chess), an adaptation of the English play Someone Waiting written by Emlyn Williams. The art director of the play was Raganna. It was a fantastic set and it was a novel attempt. We did one month rehearsal for the play,” says 85-year-old Raghavan, who is acting in serials like Rekha IPS and Varuvatharku Munn. “I want to concentrate more on films. I’m acting in Chimbudevan’s next film,” informs Raghavan, for whom, his role in Anni serial is close to his heart.

Gnana Yogam play staged by his troupe deals with philosophical thought and Raghavan relishes to talk about it. “Recently I saw Y G Mahendra’s Swadeshi Iyer. It was fantastic. There are a few troupes who stage good dramas like that of Kathadi Ramamurthy, Bosskey, Gurukulam, The Original Boys Company, T V Varadharajan among other troupes,” says Raghavan.

K S Nagarajan

He was one of the founder members of the first-ever amateur drama troupe in Chennai – the Triplicane Fine Arts Club founded in 1946, which was later rechristened as Kala Nilayam in 1968. His contribution for the production of plays like Jeeva Bhoomi by Chandilyan, Thuppariyum Sambhu, Sriman Sudarshanan, Miss Janaki, Mr Vedantham, Justice Jagannathan all by the late Devan as stage director are worth remembering. The first play directed by him was Kadavul Engay and he was even called as Kadavul Engay fame Nagarajan.

He created history by directing a social play Kurinji Malar written by Na Parthasarathy with a total 113 artistes on stage for a social play. Nagarajan’s forte is slice-of-life family dramas.

Washingtonil Thirumanam, by Savi, Thani Kudithanam, Oorvambu, Kaalkattu, Sky Lab Sammandhi, Vadapalaniyil Valmiki by Marina, Idaya Malar by Manian, Himsaigal by Anuradha Ramanan are some of the popular plays produced and directed by Nagarajan. K S N.Sundar (Nagarajan’s son) is a writer and Nagarajan has produced 12 plays written by him. Nerukku Ner, Aayiram Kalathu Payiru, M Middle Class, Panameva Jayathe, Sondhamillada Bandhangal, VRS “O” VRS, Penn Buddhi Pon Buddhi, Naanum Oru Penn written by Sundar have won several awards for the troupe and its members. Maru Pakkam is the latest play written by Sundar and produced by Nagarjan. There is no retirement age for an artiste and it’s indeed true for 93-year-old Nagarajan.

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