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For the Wodehouse touch

SUGANTHY KRISHNAMACHARI

Ananthu and Chandramohan were honoured for their contribution to theatre.

Photo: R. Shivaji Rao

AWARD TIME: R.Krishnaswami, secretary, Narada Gana Sabha, presenting the Devan Memorial Medal to Ananthakrishnan. while C.V.Chandramohan and Charukesi, Trustee, Devan Endowments look on.

One wonders if there is some connection between the study of law and dramatics. All the members of Suguna Vilas Sabha, including Sankaradas Swamigal and Pammal Sambanda Mudaliar who founded the amateur theatre troupe, were lawyers! The troupes those days were adept at technicalities. For example, in Nawab Rajamanickam’s play, ‘Kalinganardanam,’ a blue screen would be made to move in such a way as to give the impression of ripples of water. Many of his tricks are difficult to reproduce even now. Troupes like YGP’s, adapted Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Blandings Castle stories. Jeeves got Indianised as Sanjeevi!

The decade 1950-60 saw the proliferation of drama troupes. Tickets for the plays of K. Balachander and Cho were booked a week in advance.

Some nuggets

These are some of the nuggets picked up from the speech of R. Krishnaswamy, secretary, Narada Gana Sabha, who presided over the function, recently organised by Devan Endowments to give away the Devan Memorial award. The recipients were playwrights Ananthu and C.V.Chandramohan.

“I am a lawyer myself, and acted in two of Sambanda Mudaliar’s plays. One of them was titled ‘Sub-Assistant Magistrate of Sultanpet.’ I was 26 years old then, and V.C.Gopalaratnam was 62, and yet Gopalaratnam was the hero!” quipped Krishnaswamy, going down memory lane.

“In the past few years, unfortunately, there have been few plays with good scripts. ’New’ plays are rehashed versions of the old ones. A play needs a storyline. It cannot be just a string of jokes,” he remarked. The awards function was followed by a play “Natta Kal”, written by Indra Parthasarathy.

Humour is his forte

Ananthu, an engineer with the Railways, says he owes his success as a playwright to the encouragement given by his friend Venkat, himself a playwright. Ananthu is a part of the troupe, Rail Priya.

Humour is Ananthu’s forte, but there is always a message for the audience in the last scene of his plays. Ananthu is popularly known as ‘Pattabhi’ Ananthu, after the protagonist in all his plays.

Which play of his does he like best? “ ‘Vambu Idhu’ is my favourite. It’s about how Yama and Chitragupta visit India, and become victims of bureaucratic red tape.”

Ananthu’s friend Sadashiv Ranade has translated his skits into Hindi, and they have staged these as a part of inter-railway competitions, in Mussoorie, Gorakhpur and Dehra Dun.

Ananthu was Yuhi Sethu’s assistant for 10 episodes of ‘Nayyandi Durbar.’

He has been winning the best comedy playwright award at Kartik Fine Arts’ Kodai Nataka Vizha, for the past seven years.

Creating a record

“Writing came naturally to me, since everyone in my family was involved in writing. My father K.R.Nair and his brother used to write short stories. My brother is a journalist,” says Chandramohan. He has written 13 plays for Doordarshan. One of these, ‘Maarum Sandadigal,’ got 1,500 letters of appreciation from viewers, a record for any television play. “My troupe, Mother Creations, has staged five plays, all written by me, of which ‘Netra Darisanam’ is my favourite. I won 10 awards for this play. I wrote the story and dialogue for the last 10 episodes of the second part of Ramani vs Ramani, and also for K. Balachander’s serial ‘Veetukku Veedu Lootti’,” says Chandramohan.

He is the author of T.V.Varadarajan’s play, ‘Plastic Kadavul.’ He is currently working on the screenplay and dialogue for an AVM film, as yet untitled. He works with Tamil Nadu Petro Products and says his bosses are great fans of his. Both the awardees feel that plays are still very popular, and are sorry that there are fewer sponsors as compared to music concerts. There are 35-40 drama troupes, encouraged by 12 sabhas.

Devan’s ‘Thuppariyum Sambu’ is their favourite among all Devan’s stories.

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