Tuesday, June 8, 2010

An actor’s director

Vatsala Shrivastava

Jun 04th, 2010 –Asian Age New Delhi

 

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He grew up in a dreamland, where every emotion was allowed free artistic expression. Mannackanadu, his village in Kerala’s Kottayam district, has assimilated various forms of folk art in its culture to grace all occasions of life. Though he had his umbilical cord attached to dance, drama, music and other art forms, Chandradasan chose to play the role of a silent observer for several years before embarking upon “mission theatre”. His folk foundation and observation skill helped him explore and experiment with various verticals of theatre — direction, designing, acting and writing.

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During his school and college days, Chandradasan was regularly spotted among the audience, absorbing the elements of drama. Seeing the artists weave a sensitive relationship with the audience using only the fine threads of connection and experience, he was inspired to switch roles in 1977, when he started his active stage participation. He has directed more than 50 plays in Malyalam, Kannada, Sanskrit and English, and has played several characters and designed craft in about 30 plays.
He credits his first guru and neighbour, Babu Namboodri, the famous director of Malayali films, for providing creative insight into his thought process through several informal interactive sessions, many of which started from the local cricket ground. Chandradasan recalls seeking inspiration from G. Sankara Pillai, the pioneer of Kalari theatre movement and the former director of the School of Drama, Trichur, and Kavalam Narayana Panikkar, an eminent theatre director.

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Rich interaction and brainstorming with the thespians of theatre made him want to reach beyond the defined perimeter of stage. To give shape to this vision, he founded Lokdharmi, a centre for theatre training, research and performances at Tripunithura, a small town near Kochi, in 1991. The centre assists in creating long-term relationships among creative brains, thus networking them to achieve the extra-ordinary through the power of collaboration.
“The idea behind Lokadharmi was to develop an unconventional space for nurturing the culture of theatre. I wanted a centre for people who could not go to the formal theatre school or pursue it as full-time career, but shared serious passion for it. The aim was to achieve synergy beyond juts the show,’’ he says.
Chandradasan, who feels that a wide gap exists between the sensibility of “metro theatre” and the reality, stresses on systematic approach towards development of indigenous theatre. When it comes to choosing the text for his productions, he challenges himself with questions such as, “What it means to me? Is it revealing the reality of my time and space? Can it be used to address the need of my society?’’ Once the questioning is over, and he agrees to enliven the text, his design skills take over to communicate answers for these queries. The scientific process of his research and art of “focused designing” help him reach his audience more effectively. “Craft should not overshadow text. Design must focus and align with the topic, characters and sensibility of the text. It should be flexible according to the need of actors,” he says.

Bommanahalliyile Kinnara Yogi, a play enacted by children, Mazhavillu Kochi
Chandradasan likes to call himself an actor’s director and believes in the development of performers’ creative skills. “I like my actors to develop their characters themselves. Given a chance, I would like to be invisible during the process of creation. Instead of imitating their director, I help my actors to bring out various shades of their characters. At times it
takes longer, but I want my actors to define their roles themselves. It’s a group activi
ty and everyone in the team has an important role to play,” he says. When it comes to acting, he does not prefer it in his own direction. “I don’t like to act in my own plays. When I am acting for other directors, I want to be fully convinced about my character.”
A chemistry professor by profession, Chandradasasn feels the need of change in curriculum of Indian theatre education. “Why do we follow European institutes as role models for our theatre training? The concept of universal approach is not suitable for countries like India with diverse cultures. When the real India resides much beyond metros, why are most of our training centres teaching urban-based drama?,’’ asks the director.
“The approach that most of our theatre institutes take lacks the connection with our social reality. Drama schools must train their students to cope up with scarce facilities and poor infrastructure,” he says.
He also throws light on the dire state of children’s theatre in India. “Theatre must be introduced as a subject in schools for the overall development of children. Senior directors must take out time to work with them. There is no slot for plays enacted by children even in nationally-acclaimed festivals such as Bharangam,” says Chandradasan.DSC_0014
At Lokdharmi, he also runs a children theatre group called Mazhavillu. Every Saturday, this group of children, in the 10-17 age group, assembles at Changampuzah Park, a cultural park in Kochi, under a tree named “the tree of theatre — the Natakamaram”, and improvise, play games, read plays and do other theatre activities.
Artistes like Chandradasan understand the cultural need of real India and are focused on the over-all development of theatre as an art form.
They have a vision of bringing the dreamland that they spent their childhood in, to each and every kid in the nation.

Courtesy .The Asian Age daily. New Delhi, 04 July 2010

Stills are from Madhavi (Bhisham Sahni), Karnnabharam (Bhasa), and Bommanahalliyile Kinnarayogi (adaptation of a poem Kuvempu)

8 comments:

Padu said...

Very interesting indeed. I long to see your Theatre studio, to feel your dreamland. I do hope to make it some day.

Deise Puga said...

Really you deserve it, Chandra,,
Congratulations!!!
Regards!!

pooja said...

am proud to b ur student....

L. T. said...

Bravo, good Chandradasan. From the first time I heard you talk about your work about ten years ago until today, I have felt a profound affinity for your philosophy of the theatre and training--it is wonderful to read here your succinct description of your priorities. Please give my love to any of your students or colleagues who remember our time together in 2004/05.

manu said...

good one sir.. cherishin fond memories of our nataka kalam days.. hope you doin good..

Anonymous said...

My two bits go to the writer. She has researched well, and brought out a lot in a small article. Very well written piece of work! Congratulations! apparently she is doing a series called Green Room on theatre plus plage every friday in The Asian Age. Amazing!

Anonymous said...

My two bits go to the writer. She has researched well, and brought out a lot in a small article. Very well written piece of work! Congratulations! apparently she is doing a series called Green Room on theatre plus plage every friday in The Asian Age. Amazing!

SERIN said...

congratulation, am really proud of we are in facebook mates just like classmates.am really proud of you.