Peek into History : THE PLAYS OF SANKARADAS SWAMIGAL
This lesson tells you all about Sankaradas Swamigal, acclaimed as the Everest of Tamil Drama. He was an actor, a dramatist and a director. For more than a quarter of a century, his plays ruled the Tamil stage, unopposed and supreme.
Sankaradas Swamigal, Pammal K.Sambandha Mudaliar and Paridimar Kalaignar are considered as the Trinity of Tamil Drama. These three playwrights were responsible for reviving Tamil Drama which was on the decline, and elevating it to great heights.
Sankaradas Swamigal was born in 1867, in a small village near Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu. He remained a bachelor all his life. He was well-versed in Tamil literature and grammar as well as music. Having served Tamil theatre for more than three decades, he passed away at the age of 55, in Pondicherry.
Sankaradas Swamigal wrote fifty plays in all. These include Tamil translations of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, Romeo and Juliet and Julius Ceasar. Although all the plays which he wrote are excellent in their own way, special mention may be made of ten plays — Sathyavaan Savithri, Pavazhakkodi Charithram, Valli Thirumanam, Harichandra Mayaana Kaandam, Kovalan Charithram, Rama Ravana Yuddham, Veera Pandya Katta Bomman, Madurai Veeran, Chitraangi Vilaasam and Nala Damayanthi.
Sankaradas Swamigal will be remebered not only for the roles that he acted and the plays that he wrote, but also for the innumerable disciples who thronged him. Some of them later became popular film stars. When Sankaradas Swamigal entered the field of Tamil drama, it was synonymous with Street Theatre or Therukkootthu. It was Sankaradas Swamigal who raised drama to a level of respectability, which it has enjoyed ever since.
Before Sankaradas Swamigal, actors and actresses were free to alter dialogues and resort to improvisation as they liked. Sankaradas Swamigal realised the need for discipline and order among the players. He streamlined dialogues, introducing humour and ethical principles wherever he could, so that the spectators would not only be entertained but also educated. It was during Sankaradas Swamigal’s time, that separate drama troupes were set up for children. It is noteworthy that the TKS brothers who later became renowned stage artistes, were first trained as child actors by Sankaradas Swamigal.
Thus, Sankaradas Swamigal was a pioneer in the history of Tamil drama, and the greatest tribute we can pay him, is to preserve his plays, and keep the traditions which he had established, alive for all time.