Prof S. Ramanujam has been selected for the S.L. Puram Sadanandan Puraskaram for 2013, Minister for Cultural Affairs K.C. Joseph has said. The award comprising of Rs.1 lakh, a citation and a memento is the highest award by the government of Kerala for drama and Theatre. Ramanujam was being honoured by the award in view of his contributions as a playwright, director, and teacher of theatre. Ramanujam has also worked immensely in developing and nurturing children’s theatre in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
Born in 1935 in the village of Nanguneri in Tamil Nadu, Shri S. Ramanujam took a Master’s degree in English before obtaining his diploma in drama from the National School of Drama in Delhi in 1967. He then worked as a Lecturer in Fine Arts at the Rural University in Gandhigram up to 1977, moving thence to the School of Drama at Calicut University, where he was Assistant Director till 1985. In his final assignment as a teacher, Shri Ramanujam was Professor and Head of the Department of Drama at Tamil University, Thanjavur, where he served up to 1995.
Shri Ramanujam has worked all through as a director on the stage, with over fifty productions to his credit in Tamil and Malayalam, Telugu, Hindi, and English; 36 plays in Tamil, 28 in Malayalam, six in English and two in Hindi. Karuththa Deivathe Thedi in Malayalam, Variattam in Tamil, and a Telugu version of Bhasa’s Urubhangam are counted among his major productions.
“Karutha Deivathai Thedi” (In Search of the Black God, 1979 written by G.Sankara Pillai and produced for CULT, School of Drama Trissoor) is a milestone production in the history of Malayalam theatre, and it dealt with the theme of how one searches for God outside while he is within.
‘Veriyattam’ was a powerful adaptation of Euripides’s ‘The Trojan Women.’ The play transferred the Greek classic effectively to a Tamil setting through “opparis” (laments) and the use of Tamil folk performing art forms. The rhythm of Tappatam, a death ritual, was used as the background.
He has written a dozen plays and adaptations, published several books on the practice of theatre in Tamil and English, and contributed numerous papers and articles to seminars and periodicals. Shri Ramanujam has also worked actively to revive traditional performances such as Thapuattam in Thanjavur, and reconstruct the lost temple theatre form of Kaisikapurana Natakam.
His connection with Malayalam theatre was born of his association with veteran G. Sankara Pillai. Ramanujam was assistant director in School of Drama, Calicut University. “There are numerous good playwrights in Malayalam. The theatre has grown in Kerala because people read plays as literature whereas here they mainly read short stories.”
Ramanujam has written extensively on modern Tamil theatre and conducted numerous workshops in both Tamil and Malayalam. He was instrumental in catalysing changes in the parallel theatre of South India in the past three decades. “Thanks to the parallel theatre movement, world classics do not remain as literature but are brought on to the stage; the value of traditional drama is also realised.” He says with satisfaction. The strong point of Ramanujam is his ability to utilise his actors’ talent to the maximum.
His ambition is to weld children’s theatre and theatre for the aged. “I want to make elderly people participate in children’s theatre and infuse joy into their lives.”
As for the distinguishing feature of his work, “Many feel I have lost out by not belonging to particular school. But each play of mine is different from the other. My mind is not imprisoned in a pattern or form. Innovative method or design is the distinguishing feature in my approach to the theatre,” says Ramanujam, who has trained three generations in theatre skills.
His directorial ventures include “Ponnumkkudam”( by G. Sankara Pillai), “Thangakkudam”, “Chempavalakkali”, Na. Muthuswamy’s “ Naarkalikarar”, Indira Parthasarathy’s “Kaala Enthirangal” and “Mazhai”, Max Frisch’s “Andorra”, “Agniyum Mazhaiyum” (Girish Karnad’s “The Fire and the Rain”), and “Uravum Ullamum” (based on Oscar Wilde’s “Selfish Giant)
I feel so happy and proud to be part of the committee along with Soorya Krishnamoorthy (Chairman), Joshy Mathew, Sahitya Akademi secretary R. Gopalakrishnan, and Culture Secretary Rani George, that decided to bestow SL Puram award to Prof.S.Ramanujam,
Among other honours, Shri Ramanujam was conferred the Professor Sankara Pillai Award in 2001. He was elected a Fellow of the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy in 2002.