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Shraddha’s new venture, “VALAI”

Spinning a web

MALATHI RANGARAJAN

 

 

At ‘Valai’ rehearsals.

The crowds that thronged the hall to watch their three earlier plays – ‘Dhanushkodi,’ ‘Doosra’ and ‘Madras to Chennai’ – were an acknowledgement of Shraddha’s efforts to transport Tamil theatre to laudable heights. Now, the team is all set for its fourth edition – ‘Valai’ – a play woven around the subjects of software wizardry and corporate espionage. “This time it is science fiction with strong human emotions as the base. We once again assure theatre lovers that a new experience awaits them,” assures Shivaji Chaturvedi, one of the pillars of Shraddha.

The aim of the aspiring group of veterans isn’t merely to experiment and innovate, but to draw both young audiences, and ‘only-English’ stage-watchers to their shows. But such productions mean money. “So far well-wishers and children of Shraddha’s members have helped the endeavour. But soon we’ll have to work out a system where people who know about Shraddha come forward willingly in support. Many are already doing it and we are thankful to them. We have 945 names registered in our mailing list, thanks to the curtain raisers to our plays that have appeared in The Hindu. Invitations have already been despatched to all of them. Others who wish to join us at the ‘Valai’ shows on September 28, 29, 30 and October 1, at Narada Gana Sabha Hall, can call us at 28272655; 98402 08583 for invitations, between 9a.m. and 1p.m.; 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Shraddha operates on a very different plane. “We are not a drama troupe,” the members clarify. The core group has an eminent set of Tamil playwrights and novelists to write for Shraddha. ‘Valai’s writer and director is V. Sreevathson, whose Dummies Drama is a familiar name in the Tamil theatre scenario.

“Today many of us miss that inimitable story-teller who was a rare combination of scientific brilliance and narrative excellence,” begins Shivaji.

Sujatha?

“Who else? But Sreevathson has worked really hard, researched thoroughly and come up with a line and treatment that is bound to be intelligent and engaging,” vouches stage personality and another prominent Shraddha member TDS.

“With the result that authenticity vis-à-vis scientific facts has been maintained. He has even delved into our texts of yore to analyse our ancients’ knowledge of Nanotechnology, which ‘Valai’ deals with. ‘Kamba Ramayanam touches upon it, and our own Thirukkural is an example of it,’ says Sreevathson,” laughs Shivaji. Voice synthesisers and simulation techniques too have been touched upon. And Sreevathson also plays a computer genius, who unravels the mystery.

So will ‘Valai’ remind us of Sujatha? “You’ll have to tell us, after watching the play,” says TDS.

At Shraddha, the cast is decided by the writer and director of each play. So Sreevathson has chosen Balaji, who played the fraudster in Dhanushkodi,’ as the protagonist of ‘Valai.’ “Both Shivaji and I play minor roles,” informs TDS. “And as every playwright seems to want ‘Kathadi’ Ramamurthy in the cast, he will be seen in ‘Valai’ too.” The draw and versatility of the veteran has made him indispensable.

The set which will showcase two different scenes of action sounds very novel. “None has tried it before,” says Shivaji. Designed by Ramesh and Krishnamurthy, the ever-enthusiastic duo of Mayapuri Graphics, and executed by Vijayakumar, the pictures of the set which Shivaji displays, is an interest kindler.

Only the actors and the director seem to change. The technicians have been the same for all the plays. “Well, almost, but Cheta Ravi’s lighting is a very significant part of the entire set. He’s been handling lights since childhood, and it’s the first time he’s attempting a very unique lighting style. You’ll understand it when you watch the play,” smiles Shivaji cryptically.

Shraddha is striving to reiterate the point that Tamil theatre is talented enough to come up with refreshing themes with rich production values, which in turn translate into worthy presentations. Their passion and perseverance have already begun to fructify.

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