Monday, August 15, 2011

‘Theatre transcends language and time’

Ram Kumar Ramaswamy

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Chandradasan lives and breathes theatre, as he puts it. He has become the face to reckon with, for theatre in Kochi.

His obsession is evident in his detailed and scholarly take on subjects that range from Kalidasa to Beckett, from Shakespearean times to the modern era.

“It all started in 1982 when I was studying at St Albert’s college in Ernakulam when I discovered my interest for theatre. Sadly, there weren’t many avenues for Kochiites to learn and shine in the field then. Kerala did not have a vibrant theatre scene like Mumbai or Delhi,” says Chandradasan.

He would hold long discussions with legends like Shankara Pillai of the School of Drama. Gradually, several ideas began to shape up, and they decided to form his own theatre production company.

Collaborating with Gramavedi, a theatre group from Vallarpadam that consisted of workers, labourers, carpenters and masons, they succeeded in staging three adaptations of Badal Circar’s plays in 1987-88.

Rajavinte Chenda, the adapted play gained much appreciation all over Kerala. Chandradasan was soon recognised all over Kerala as a director of plays.

In the late eighties he developed a desire for instituting a learning centre for theatre in Kerala. That was also the time his group staged plays of M.T. Vasudevan Nair and gained a lot of appreciation.

“We instituted our training school Lokadharmi in a humble temporary roofed premises in Tripunithura in 1991. Later, it moved to the Sanskrit College campus with the gracious help of K.G. Paulose, the former Vice Chancellor of Kalamandalam,” says Chandradasan.

Lokadharmi has been conducting theatre workshops on all Sundays unfailingly, till today at Changampuzha park at Edapally. Their plays have been staged across the country, and abroad, many more than a hundred times over.

Adaptations are his forte. Chandradasan feels that be it Euripides’ Medea or Vyasa’s Mahabharata, epics live forever, and the human entanglements of ancient times astonishingly fit for today’s world too.

However, he believes in adaptations because, a play clicks only if it connects with the viewer with a strand that runs through our culture, language and issues that plague today’s life.

In 2000, his team toured Greece to stage Greek plays following an invitation from the Greek government, and received great appreciation and support.

“Plays are about experiencing, and not exactly about the story alone. Times have changed and people’s perception has changed too. Today, we have such fantastic equipment, lighting, sound systems, make-up men and trained actors. Sadly, the plays of today are very dilute in nature,” says Chandradasan who feels that vernacular theatre of today has brilliant works that sadly go unnoticed by the majority of the population because it doesn’t have the support that English plays enjoy.

“A good play is that which connects you to the land, its emotions and transports you to a different plane. Theatre transcends language and time,” he says.

Courtesy Deccan chronicle Kochi, August 14, 2011