V B Ganesan
THE Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers and Artists Association (TNPWAA), along with Madras Kerala Samajam, had organised a five-day South Indian People’s Theatre Festival from October 2, in Chennai. The festival showcased 32 plays in five languages involving more than 500 artists.
The festival began with a rally of artists to the venue, Girish Karnad Campus, amid the thunderous drum beats of Paappampadi Jama and Silambattam of boys and girls, on October 2. K Pandiarajan, minister for arts and culture, government of Tamil Nadu, addressed the audience and said that the state government will increase financial support to folk artists and theatre groups. In response to a demand raised by noted playwright and festival committee secretary, Pralayan, Pandiarajan assured that an auditorium will be identified soon at Chennai to be made available to theatre groups for rehearsals in the mornings, at a concessional rate.
Various halls in honour of eminent theatre personalities Manorama, Gnani, Na. Muthusamy and Mukil were declared open by film artist Sachu, theatre personality Augusto, writer and film artist Vela Ramamurthy and Koothuppattarai Mu. Natesh respectively.
Pralayan explained that TNPWAA is organising this festival in Chennai with a motto to create a network among theatre groups in the region to raise the banner of diversity with individual identity. Festival committee president and eminent film artist, Rohini (vice-president of TNPWAA), proudly stated that this festival is being celebrated with the active support and participation of people of Chennai.
Inaugurating the festival, the patron-in-chief of the festival and eminent musician T M Krishna said that theatre being an amalgamation of all other art forms is capable of interacting with its audience and it also questions the status quo. He said that it is necessary to allow all types of voices and it need not be a voice in unison. He also said that society can grow only through clash of ideas and questioning and only that will foster and nourish democracy.
Noted film director Pa Ranjith recalled the influence he had from the dramas conducted during the literacy movement in Tamil Nadu and said that there is no society without art. He said that the purpose of theatre is for raising questions about the prevalent social situation. Noted film artist Nasser said that only dramas made him to think about society, to get angry and to feel the pain. He pointed out the necessity of unity of thought in the present situation.
TNPWAA president and MP, Su Venkatesan said that theatre plays a great role in moulding the thought process of young writers and artists. TNPWAA general secretary and writer Aadhavan Deetchanya said that only art and literature speak the truth without any compromise.
Following the inaugural programme, Tamil poet Tamizh Oli’s epic poem Veerayi was dramatised by playwright Pralayan. This poem written in 1947 was on honour killing which is still relevant. Another drama brought the life and struggle of Savitribhai Phule. A Kannada drama based on the correspondence of Gandhi and Ambedkar was nicely presented by Nadana of Mysore. Likewise, Hyderabadi Samhaaraa presented Telugu writer Chalam’s novel into a breathtaking drama. Kerala Thirussur Panchami Theatre presented Maali on the tribulations of jungle life with powerful action scenes.
Another notable feature of the festival is an in-depth discussion session held every day from 9 to 10 am with the participation of the artists which received wide ranging comments from drama enthusiasts who were attending in large numbers every day. Many leading theatre, film personalities, writers and social activists offered their felicitations during the festival.
On October 6th evening, during the valedictory function, DMK MP Thamizhachi Thangapandian, TNPWAA honorary president Tamil Selvan, actor Rajesh, doyen of theatre, Bharathi Mani, education activist Prince Gajendrababu, advocate and writer S Senthilnathan, Prof Sundaravalli and translator and writer V B Ganesan besides offering felicitations to the organisers, also spoke on the necessity of preserving this cultural medium to take forward the message of plurality across the people. Madras Kerala Samajam president while felicitating TNPWAA said his organisation is proud to be associated with this festival and is ready to join hands with them in their future endeavours.
The festival gave a fillip to the cultural movement in Tamil Nadu to develop a wider network among the artists and also gave a hope to extend its horizon further, said the artists.