[Reader-list] Urban Sabha Drama -August

pritham k chakravarthy prithu7 at hotmail.com
Wed Aug 22 11:01:48 IST 2007

Urban Sabha Drama
August 2007

The Other Side of Chennai Drama

While there were three Sabha Drama Festivals during summer, July and August 
saw two very different kinds of theatre performances. Surprisingly both 
these festivals were frequented by prominent sabha members.

The first was an all day long Pammal Sambanda Mudaliyar Festival on July 
17th at Top Storey, Alliance Françoise, Chennai. The day was devoted to the 
passage Tamil theatre had taken since Pammal’s days to contemporary 
times. Beginning with an exhaustive seminar on Pammal, it recalled the 
passion Chennai had for theatre itself and forms f theatre that had been 
experimented since then. The surprise element was the staging of a full 
length play scripted by Pammal Sangeetha Payithiyam [Mad for Music] by 
Theatre Lab. Strangely with Pammal’s strict codes of what theatre 
should or should not address this is a play he never permitted his own group 
Suguna Vilas Sabha to stage as this was merely entertainment. This was 
followed with Nadhi Ariyathu [The River Does Not Know] a contemporary 
monologue scripted by S. Ramakrishnan and performed by the same group. While 
the former play was received enthusiastically by the younger audience even 
though the play was over five decades old the later went lackluster because 
of the dense text.

The second was a ten-day long festival, The Hindu Metro Theatre Fest, from 
August 2nd-12th at Music Academy and Sivagami Pettachi Auditorium. Several 
shows had tickets pre-booked and the Chennai Chapter that had four plays was 
sold out. The crowd on the first day was so large that three school compound 
nearby were reserved for car parking. The audience was across age groups, 
theatrephiles and artivists. This is the third run for this festival and the 
launch show was Ratan Thiyam’s Nine Hills One Valley from Manipur. It 
was only five minutes before the show that the festival organizers chose to 
let the audience know that the play was going to be in Manipuri and we were 
to read up the one sheet synopsis given to follow the play that was 85 
minutes in duration. Ironically, this is a festival announced for English 
plays and even had an incentive thrown in with The MetroPlus Playwright of 
the Year Award of Rs.1 lakh cash prize announced at the launch. Four 
international groups, of which two were professionals [Germany and Chicago], 
four national groups and four local in Chennai Chapter the festivals were 
indeed ambitiously conceived.

If devotional books and music, south Indian food, and film music are sold in 
foyer of the sabha drama festival then this huge fare came with cappuccino 
and test car ride for Ford Logan. Were the prize afforded for the best 
playwright is a frugal 10,000/ for Tamil drama the amount here was big. But 
otherwise with kitsch performance, ringing mobiles, late entrance of 
audience, restless coughs, shallow scripts, same pattu saris and 
air-conditioned cars, this festival was no different.

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