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Staging a Revival!

Staging a Revival!

Tamil theatre is employing new methods to reach out to the younger audiences

 By Srinivasa Ramanujam 

 Chennai Times, A Times of India Publication dated 20th February 2012

A new wave of ideas seems to have hit Tamil theatre. Shedding its ‘familydrama’ image, it’s galvanizing forward thanks to the spirited efforts of some to reach out to the youth and the masses. The latest in this line is the idea of webcasting a Tamil play!

When Prayatna’s latest play Thodarum is staged later this week, theatre lovers from across the world can watch it live at the same time. “We want to give audiences a live theatrical experience,” explains its director, K Vivekshankar, about this first-of-its-kind initiative, “For instance, if a person in Coimbatore would like to watch a Tamil play, his options are limited. This initiative strives to reach out to people who have few options. Of course, as the Internet is involved, it can be viewed across the world. We want to take theatre to the masses, literally.”

Another route employed by writers and directors to reach out to newer audiences is providing them plays in new genres. Thodarum itself is based in the horror genre, something that Tamil theatre hasn’t explored in the past three decades. “Such interesting genres will expand the horizons of Tamil theatre,” feels veteran theatre artist and producer T D Sundararajan.

 A few months ago, a play titled Valai explored science fiction and struck a chord with most of the software engineers in the audience. “We included a lot of computer jargon in it because it went with the subject,” says V Sreevathson, who wrote and directed it, “Fortunately, a lot of young office-goers related to it as well.”

The surprise factor is something Tamil theatre is throwing up of late and that’s pleasing audiences to the hilt. Shraddha’s recent offering Vadavooran, a historical offering, seemed to get that right by bringing a real horse on stage! “It was a huge hit,” adds Sundararajan, “It went with the subject and the fact that a horse suddenly came on stage, unannounced, caught the audience by surprise.” Another such attempt was witnessed in Dhanushkodi in which it ‘rained on stage’, a first for Tamil theatre.

In a bid to attract youngsters, Tamil theatre groups are trying to use social networking and the Internet to their advantage. While one group, Dummies Drama, offers an e-ticketing service that people can use to book tickets for their plays, another cut a trailer for their play and uploaded it as part of their promotional campaign.

However, at the end of the day, attracting the youth audience can be made easier if there are youngsters on stage as well. That’s precisely what Chennai Drama House is about. Comprising youngsters, mostly working professionals, this group’s two comedy plays titled Kandapadi Kandupidi and Indru Poi Netru Vaa were much appreciated in theatre circles. “We started off in 2008 as a group of friends who were together in school and were passionate about theatre,” says Karthik Bhatt of the group. About 40 shows old, this group hopes to march ahead in its on-stage sojourn. “Theatre is an amazing art form as it’s full of liveliness. The instantaneous feedback we receive from the audience provides encouragement and at the same time spurs us on to keep bettering ourselves.”

L I F E ’ S  A  S TAG E ! 

• Y Gee Mahendra’s latest offering Naadagam revolves around the life of a theatre artist and chronicles his failures and successes.

• Children form a big target audience for Tamil theatre too! One of the reasons for Crazy Mohan’s Chocolate Krishna doing so well is that it appealed to children. The play involves a bit of magic as well.

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