Excited to be back in the informal Tamil forum, one which is not ‘organised.’ For, the handful of us have no elected president or vp or secretary to run the show. A group of us were into such a down-to-earth setting of Tamil speech club if I may call so (for lack of any other term for description) that I left with my departure to India by the end of 2019. Initiative by Sri Lankan Tamils principally, the get-together used to be bi-monthly at a friend’s place who lent his spacious residence for us to enjoy pure literary Tamil company not corrupted by formality of tailormade speeches or awards/prizes/ certifications or even an enrollment/membership fee, or any such paraphernalia that normally went with formal speech fora. Each of us took a turn to treat everyone with a sumptuous typical Tamil breakfast of Idli, Dosa, Pongal, Vada, Sambar, Chutney with Filter coffee that we would order from a franchisee of Saravana Bhavan or Vasantha Bhavan or Aryas here in Middle East. Hearty exchange of ideas, sharing of thoughts, recitation of poems penned, singing our own lyrical compositions, sometimes some interesting games would keep us engaged for almost two hours. No dilution of quality. No laid down rules. No censorship because as adults we thought we were aware of what to talk in a public platform. Attired informal but for festive occasions, we dressed as per the season. The meetings always began with Thamizh Thai Vaazhthu and closed with a Mangalam. We would decide on the course of the meeting unanimously with inputs from everyone. We discussed the next meet’s agenda together. No hard and fast rules. No tab on speeches but we stuck to meticulous timing without a prompt. Every single one of us got to intereact with each and every other member making for truly an inclusive and totally transparent forum with representation from all quarters. Not more than 15-20 of us could make it in any case. We would disperse after a light banter at the end of the session to wait for the next meeting in a fortnight’s time.
After attending formal English speech clubs I am able to appreciate better the informal speech environment of the Tamil Koottam (simple name for the very earnest effort). Credit goes to the Sri Lankans for not allowing an inch of manouvre from the purpose of the meet, keeping the substance mattering all the time, yet managing the affair matter-of-factly without drawing undue attention to themselves or trying to boss over. The gesture needs emulation in every arena. Very mature handling.
I am not denying how much I have benefited from formal speech clubs. Toastmasters, to be more precise. In TM environment, I learned to LISTEN first! Then I noticed others’ mistakes that I thought I must avoid. And finally I grew out of my stagefear. Not that i am now totally not shy of the stage, but to a large extent, I was able to successfully quell it,reaching out to audience with direct eye contact. My takeaway from TM is my new found confidence over anything. I learnt to write briefest speeches, because I am notorious for my longwinding write-ups! I learnt how to wrap up quick, how to give a thunderous intro, build a convincing body and then make an impressive retreat that left the audience thinking. I don’t know how much I achieved really here, but I took my own sweet good time to reach level 10 or the final step to become a competent communicator that normally took others 6 months to one year only! I spaced out my projects because I also shared my time between India and here. With every level, I wanted to match my speech quality equally. Awards and certificates meant nothing to me.
But I am all for the high achievers who make some very good speakers in the TM world. I have listened to some greatest and moving speeches packed with a punch, delivered on the dot. Drawn from life experiences, there have been one or two that even moved me to tears. I think I may be the only housewife in my club hahaha! I wonder at their reaction if I am to tell them I am a granny now hahaha! The mix of the crowd is good in TM whereas in Tamil club, you know what to expect. I like TM for the different kind of experience that I cannot savour elsewhere.
The point is I have no desire to improve myself beyond a point in the formal TM atmosphere. I may continue as a member but I lack the initiative to take it upward from where I am. May be I am too spoilt by the informal Tamil gathering where my heart truly belongs!
We are all not TED material here hahaha! I like to keep things simple and stressfree!
Tried my hand at the Tamil TM as well. Quality of speeches was a sore disappointment there that made me quit half way.
We give our valuable time (!) to these activities because we want something from them, to add value to our lives. This is why we listen to music, we read books, play games etc. Anything that does not serve the purpose is a waste of time and effort. In fact, it is an affront to our learning spirit and pesonality!
My conclusion is that, the informal speech fora are the most democratic, with everyone on equal footing. But to convene such meetings, the members must hold extraordiary discipline and self-control. None is obliged to anyone and no one needs to be bothered with responsibilities. Partially this is true of TM whose office bearers too do a thankless job. TM has no profit motive either. It is self improvement with active enrollment and participation, each one paying for his/her through which is fair. For me personally, an informal gathering still keeps my mind free. We have met in parks as well, in winter times.
I hope to grow with both the speech clubs. Each serves me in a unique manner. From both I derive benefits that cannot be quantified. Not an articulate speaker, I most favour translating my thoughts into words here in my blog 😀
We regularly walk through the greeny green Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) Park, but following up the trail in day light is a visual treat like none other. Walking over the periphery covering gardens with exotic shrubs can stretch your daily walk upto about a robust 5 km but you may also take a detour cutting corners to a shorter distance of 2 km (not bad) if you so wish . Only you will be missing sight of myriad mynahs and chasing cats of all hues and sizes in the event. There are sweeping smooth grassy lawns peppered with trees transplanted from as far as the Amazon for partying and picnicking, and delightful play pens for kids, besides the crisscrossing walking-biking tracks and even a place of worship for believers, that make the park ideal weekend destination for families. There is ample drinking water and restroom facilities and further a cafeteria for light snacks and drinks.
When mercury soars to 51 C in this time of the year, you may hardly look forward to any outdoor activity, but MIA Park is as inviting as ever with its rich and breezy vistas that you don’t want to miss it even for a day.
Winter sights of the park bordered by a shallow sea on the rear merit a secondary write-up! December to February can see temperature dipping to as low as 4 C which is heavenly season. Crisp weather of perfect sunshine with intermittent balmy skies and a pleasantly chill air. Late evening walks are under delicately placed lamp posts and hidden lighting all solar-powered, subtly illuminating your way for you minus a glare. The skyline of Doha in either scenario is a treat from the far shore of the Corniche : beautiful in setting sun and lit up dazzlingly after sunset.
Walking through the lush emerald lawns, you may opt to climb a gently sloping knoll and/or stroll about the cobble stoned walkway meandering along the lazily lapping backwaters where water scooters to tourist ferry are regular recreational sport. Rocky boulders in the rugged sea coast define the contours of the park but are a pretty sight.
You may choose a serene spot under a shady tree (and there are quite a few date palms as well) or in the cool lawns or in the stony steps leading up to the sea waters to just unwind, read a book or relapse into a relaxing catnap… just like the feline creature snoozing right next to you in this heavenly abode…. Or you may simply follow up the trail for the very pleasure of walking through this paradise for health and fitness which is all the more invigorating and rejuvenating that you feel a lightness come over you…
Om Shanti ! Peace !
I salute the tiny state of Qatar that puts not only their citizens’ welfare first and foremost over everything, but also that of other residents (expats) like us. The quality of our life is greatly improved living for over 10 years now in this peninsular nation which is like a dot in the Persian Gulf .
My hometown is Chennai and once upon a time, we were touted to have the second most beautiful and longest sandy beach in the world. No more so, sadly. We in India are bestowed with natural gifts, but instead of appreciating our wealth, we depreciate it by misuse and mismanagement.
The kind of peace I feel walking around MIA park adjoining the sea in tandem with nature created with such a loving care in the midst of parched desert … is something I do not find in my own city/country. I cannot find a single uncluttered haven like this in Chennai where I can get lost. I cannot find a single secluded spot in my long seacoast to just stand over, gaze, ponder and laze about…. For such an absolute solitude and stillness and harmony with nature, I have to leave my city limits and travel over 60 km in ECR (East Coast Road). The degeneration of India in general and Chennai in particular pains me immensely.
Here are some visuals from MIA Park I would like to share with: Can you believe this is entirely man-made in Reclaimed Land from the sea. Doha is far greener than my city Chennai, feast to our eyes. Patriotism must not be a mere rhetoric. Nationalism must reflect in the way we nurture our nation and embrace nature, adding values – aesthetics and otherwise. Past lies in the past. Future lies right ahead. Today’s present will be our future history.
Everyone says Paris is the fashion capital of the world. Or perhaps Milan is. Rome is. But if you ask us Indian women, we will say, India is the FABRIC CAPITAL OF THE WORLD. WEAVE CAPITAL OF THE WORLD. India may also be the ETHNIC HANDBLOCK PRINT CAPITAL OF THE WORLD. AND EVEN THE HOSIERY CAPITAL OF THE WORLD IN SPITE OF CHINA. No other nation on earth boasts of such a stunning range of fabrics and weaves of silks, cottons and blends (natural yarn) and none has the kind of Ethnic handblock prints and handcraft work that India has – hundreds or perhaps thousands of them strewn together right across the length and breadth of the nation sewing up a beautiful enchanting and magic carpet of colourful dreams. Handlooms still occupy a place of pride over mechanized textiles like rayon and polyester, the synthetic fabrics from the west. Indian cotton and silk BREATHE and are natural fiber. I love India for Her myriad colours, earthy native fabrics, weaves, ethnic motifs and traditional handblock prints and handwork as much as I love Her for Her ancient culture and heritage. INDIAN TEXTILES REFLECT OUR ORIGINAL CHARACTER AND INDIVIDUALITY.An open challenge to anyone to prove me wrong: come up with an equivalent exquisite fabric/print/handwork collection. Understanding the fabric of India may help one understand the very phenomenon and enigma called India.
Around the world Indians are going places as CEOs of multinational corporations, astronauts, medicos, scientists, mathematicians, engineers, teachers, nurses, techies… but if you look at the way we lovingly weave and wear, you will know why we Indians are able to make it good anywhere. Where does the inspiration spring from? Here is a peek into India’s Soul.
Pictures courtesy (!): Google Images
PART I : FABRICS AND WEAVES/THREADS OF INDIA
I confess to bad taste in clothes, wrong accessorizing and mismatch of colours so I must be the last person to attempt something like this. Still I wanted to document the varied, diverse fabrics of India as much (as I could recall) with their unique local dyes/hues and ethnic motifs. The kind of fabrics we have here in India is matchless, the desi cotton is our trademark. To others, clothes are matter-of-fact. Not for us Indian women. Every suit or kurtha/kurthi or top or a sari or even a salwar or pant an Indian Nari dons has a background woven into its history, with specific intricate details. Even in foreign labels like Marks & Spencer etc. abroad, we find the fabric happens to be basically Indian with finishing (tailoring) done in UK. Same may be true of Italian clothes as well. Chinese cotton is smoother than Indian with a clean machine finish: something that Indian fabrics may lack but that is exactly our plus point. Chinese cotton to me is one more industrial product. Never applies to my senses. Our desi pure cottons and cotton blends are coarser. Bangladeshi (Bengali) cotton could be the closest match. I also love the Pakistani lawn (as they call cotton) but I am not for their crowded patterns/designs. The fabric is super fine and flowy. The Pakistanis do not simply have the stunning range of fabrics that India presents to the world. So these are the four countries that dominate the world cotton and fabric market today.
Here I set about exploring what little I know from the fabric world. State-wise if possible.
KANJIVRAM, THE QUEEN OF WORLD FABRICS IS FROM KANCHIPURAM, NEAR CHENNAI, TAMIL NADU, INDIA. PREMIUM & NO. 1 SILK IN WORLD
KANJIVARAM, THE PRIDE OF INDIA
Let me start with Tamil Nadu, famous for its Kanjivaram silks (aka Kanchipuram or Kanchi), Arani silks (second grade), Chinnalapattu, Dharmavaram. These are just the silk varieties from my home base. Cottons include Chettinad and Coimbatore and Madurai. Wedding silk cannot be less than Kanjivaram silks for south Indian brides. Prices may range anywhere between 2,000 rupees to lakhs of rupees.
You have to be real rich if you want to stitch a suit in Kanjivaram silks. I do that once my silk sari ages. . For all special occasions and family weddings, silk is a must for us.
For paucity of space, I am leaving out the other silk varieties from Tamil Nad. Kanjivaram is most sought after through out the world. (In any case this is going to be one very long post). There are tourists who visit Chennai for the sole purpose of shopping for silk.
Silk and Cotton make an interesting blend in various ratios. That gives rise to hundreds of different cotton-silk tissues that are every woman’s delight. Jute Silk, Raw Silk, Silk Cottonare hot favourites.
So here I have merely covered the silk and silk-cotton blends from my home state sans any handwork like embroidery or mirror or bead work. Also leaving out dyeing works like tie-and-dye, Kalamkari like fabric paints, block prints etc that I shall try to cover under ‘Prints of India’ (part II). My first section to deal with only fabrics.
HOSIERY INDUSTRY OF TAMIL NADU: TIRUPUR
India (Tamil Nadu) may be the world suppliers of Jockey to Victoria’s Secret and other global brands when it comes to underwear. You may go for premium inners from Australia to America but remember all of them come from Tirupur textile units. Mostly. Only you end up paying 10 times more in the west for the under garments made in India.
INDIA ALSO COULD SHORTLY CLAIM TO BE THE DENIM CAPITAL OF THE WORLD INCHING PAST BANGLADESH SINCE THE ERA OF EXPORT TRADE TARIFF BENEFITS EXTENDED TO DENIM MANUFACTURE IN BANGLADESH AND PAKISTAN DRAW TO A CLOSE. I AM LEAVING OUT DENIM FROM THIS POST OWING TO LACK OF SPACE.
In my working days I mostly draped a Bengal cotton sari at least once a fortnight to office. Favourite with working women. Bengal cotton suits, again a favourite. As I have covered Tussar under Bihar and Jute under silks of Tamil Nadu, I am giving them a miss here.
KASHMIR: KASHMIR SILK, MATKA SILK, PASHMINA & CASHMERE WOOLEN AND RUGS AND CARPETS
ASSAM: MUGA SILK & TUSSAR SILK
PUNJAB : KNIT WEAR & SPORTS GEAR, PUNJABI COTTON
PART II: ETHNIC HANDBLOCK PRINTS & MOTIFS
AND NATURAL DYES OF INDIA
DABU PRINT FROM RAJASTAN / HAND BLOCK PRINT
Dabu print Kurthis are very popular with women. Handblock bed linen from India equally popular in fashion houses around the world, priced exorbitant.
PHULKARI FROM PUNJAB
KOLHAPURI JUTIS FROM MAHARASHTRA
JODHPURS FROM RAJASTAN
Kolhapuri Handmade Leather Jutis (Footwear) for Men & Women from Kohlapur, Maharashtra, one more Made-in-India produce that is world famous designer collection. Jodhurs from Rajastan originally need no introduction.
AJRAKH PRINTS, KUTCH, GUJARAT
BANDHANI PRINT FROM RAJASTAN, GUJARAT, KASHMIR
TIE & DYE
If Kanjivaram and Tussar are my silk favourites, Bandhini is my No.1 favourite hand print. I have Bandhani in everything: silk, cotton, georgette-crepe be it sari or kurti or stole.
KUTCHI MIRROR EMBROIDERY (MUTWA) FROM GUJARAT
APPLIQUE WORK (PATCH WORK) FROM ODISHA (ORISSA)
BAGRU PRINTS FROM RAJASTAN (JAIPUR)
Bagru is one more hand block print very popular with women.
LUCKNOWI CHIKANKARI FROM UTTAR PRADESH
This is another addiction of mine.
IKAT PRINTS FROM ANDHRA, ORISSA, GOA AND OTHER STATES OF INDIA
IKAT TRIBAL PRINTS & MOTIFS
Many states in India weave Ikat in different local fabrics like silks and cotton. Ikat is very much in fashion everywhere. Some Ikat prints here.
KALAMKARI FABRIC PAINT FROM ANDHRA PRADESH: SEEMANDHRA/TELENGANA
NO other Ethnic work is as contemporary now as Kalamkari (and Ikat).
MADHUBANI FABRIC PAINTING FROM RAJASTAN, MAHARASHTRA & OTHER STATES
KHARI PRINT FROM VARIOUS STATES
MADRAS CHECKS FROM TAMIL NADU
One more World standard from Madras, Chennai. Next time you wear a checkered shirt, remember, it is named after Madras from its famous ‘Lungi’ check designs. If Kanjivaram is for women, Madras checks are for men. GET INSPIRED. WEAR MADRAS ON YOUR SLEEVE WITH MADRAS CHECKS!
SUNGUDI FROM TAMIL NADU
Sungudi is soft cotton from Tamil Nadu and Sungudi dying is unique and favourite especially among senior citizens. My granny always draped only a Sungudi cotton sari with sungudi dyed prints. Brings back loving memories of her. I do have sungudi kameezes, softest as they come.
ZARDOSI/ZARI WORKS ACROSS INDIA
Zardosi works in North Benarasis and Gold/Silver Zari borders in South Kanjivarams:
GOTA PATTI FROM RAJASTAN
KANTHA & JAMDANI WORKS FROM BENGAL
and on and on and on……..,
There is much more. Suggestions/Corrections/Improvements welcome. Would like to add to this collection of mine 😀
But before I stop, want to add this: Some cotton varieties from India may need regular starching. Some silks may need dry cleaning. Following the wash instructions is very important when it comes to fabrics/clothes from India with/without ethnic hand work. Not only the weaves, even the dyes could be delicate. Exercise caution for wash.
What a stunning range of fabrics and weaves we have in India: from feather weight muslins to class Kanjivaram pure silks to roughly hewn Khadi cottons. A staggering array of dyes mostly natural/vegetable. Put together the desi flavour of ethnic motifs of each district from every state: and work out the permutations and combinations. There you go! And I have not even covered a fraction of the ocean called Indian Textiles world. This is just the natural fabrics. There is the other world of synthetics like Georgette, Crepes, Polyester, Nylon, Rayon, (Denim) etc., etc., that I do not even want to attempt…
So that can give you an idea about India. It is not about mere fabrics. It is not about just dyes and ethnic prints and motifs. It is much more than all that. None can summarize India. I am trying my bit that’s all. May be I have managed some 0.001%.
I do not want to comment on others but I find Chinese materials very inferior and artificial and cold and classless and without a character. Plain. But very, very flexible. That I have to give to the chinese: for marketing themselves best and for catering to every taste and for being most flexible and economical. Well, Indians cannot afford to be like that. India is too complex if this post of mine is any indication.
As for Pakistan lawn, I like the fabric but I find it very plain and uninspiring. Designers and designs are similar and predictable. No individuality. Cotton on the other side of Punjab is surprisingly soft (or probably imported) compared to the cotton that grows on this side of the Atari border. Pak lawn makers mix at least 10% of synthetic yarn with their cotton. 100% virgin cotton is hard to come by. No special weaves or patent-worthy content like we have in India.
I guess most Indian desi original pedigree fabrics/weaves/threads/textiles/handblock prints are now patent protected, with Geo-Patent. For instance Kanjivaram silk saris from Kanchipuram, near Chennai.
Even our clothes should have a character. At least that is what I believe in.
As for Europe and America, they import fabric from India and China (also Bangladesh, Pakistan) and do the finishing (tailoring), customizing them to their regional tastes. Just as India is the back office of the world when it comes to the IT industry, India is also behind the fashion scene of the world very much although you may never guess…
Stage, they say, is the mother of modern cinema. There was a time in Tamil film industry when the road one took to the silverscreen was through live stage. Veteran actors Shivaji Ganesan to M G Ramachandran (MGR who later became the state’s chief minister preceding his disciple Jayalalitha Jayaram), almost everyone most naturally followed this time-tested route to stardom. The galaxy of character artistes who made it big with a giant leap from stage-plays to tamil filmdom included those like Major Sundarrajan, M R Radha, Nagesh (the comedian), Srikkanth, Poornam Viswanathan etc besides leading ladies from the ’50s such as Banumathy and Manorama barring a lucky few who hit the jackpot straight away like MGR’s prodigy Jayalalitha herself (who also succeeded him incidentally as the state CM) and ‘Gemini Ganesan’ (father of bollywood heroine Rekha) (to name a couple of stalwarts).
Histrionics, dialogue delivery, screen presence and even singing abilities were considered to be the chief merits of those who ruled the stage as well as the cinemas from as early as the ’50s. P U Chinnappa and M K Thiagaraja Bhagavathar from 1940s were sort of cult heroes of their times with a huge, huge fan following.
Nearly sixty years later unfolds an interesting scene:
The once vibrant and healthy Tamil theatre has visibly (and perhaps audibly) gone silent for sometime now; it is not though entirely or exactly dormant but it has stopped making waves since long. Or may be it is drawing its last breath… One or two like the ’70s dramatists like Kathadi Ramamurthy and Y G Mahendra seem to be persisting against all odds but for whom it is nearly dead, well almost. Sad, but inevitable reality? Satellite tv did to Tamil stage dramas what not even celluloid films could manage to do for a whopping 40-50 years, reasons for which can be attributed for a variety of causes. Mass media came home with the idiot box, not reserved for a selective, ‘appreciative’ audience as the stage plays seemed to command and cater to. Atleast it was fashionable for middle-class folks of the 1970s and 80s to hold ‘sabha’ memberships, and attending fortnightly plays was like kind of an unmissable ritual. The sabha appearance became a social status where one flaunted his/her friends and family. The odd films were here and there but the dramas were a huge draw and mainstay of quality family entertainment. Expensive, to start matters with or perhaps privileged to those who had ‘the aesthetic sense’ and ‘good company.’
The monochrome tv set was ignored for a while but things changed with the arrival of the colour tv concept. Coupled with scores of multilingual entertainment content and news packages with the new dish tv in the block round the clock all 24×7, curtains were beginning to fall for the ‘elite’ Tamil drama stage. Elite, in the sense, the drama audience comprised mostly of urban middle-class society for whom a hot steaming ‘filter’ coffee with a plate of spicy oily onion ‘bajjis’ in the recess between the plays meant a heady social interaction nonetheless. This was nothing short of class act. Something that was compromised and leveled even with the advent of colour television. TV truly is a game-changer that way. Paupers to the pompous, folks retired to the comfort of their own couches where class and taste had no role to play. Around this period began a series of half to one-hour concise plays that were telecast to tv viewers weekly twice catering to the drama-hooked patrons. The package was disappointing and perhaps around this time, interests started to wane. Over years, the plays simply got rarer and stopped one fine day unable to keep up with mega serials that became the staple diet of popular television viewing.
So much so that by the ’90s, there were hardly any sabhas regularly featuring tamil plays. A flourishing business was coming to a close but with the other door swinging open for artists left in the wake by way of endless family sagas of tv soaps, drama took any new avatar? The halls of the city from now on almost always were rather booked full for only the December music season ‘kutcheries’. For the few persisting drama companies, to expect a packed audience became like believing in a miracle.
Interest in live stage has since clearly diminished if not totally vanished…
The interest in stage plays was however rekindled recently in Tamil audience with the picture ‘Kavia Thalaivan’ (Epic Hero) starring Siddharth, Prithviraj and Nasser. It was a period film from the times of Sankardas Swamigal who is revered to be the father of Tamil Theatre.
The film brought out memories of late ’70s and ’80s synonymous with stage dramas for Tamils.
R.R. Sabha in Mylapore for instance was virtually a temple for avid drama-watchers. There was a time when people used to queue up outside the ‘sabha’ halls for tickets like they do in movie halls.
Mylapore Fine Arts, Karthik Fine Arts etc where routinely they screened Tamil plays were also some regular haunts for drama-enthusiasts. Proximity to the sabhas/halls was the main reason many of us had access to a variety of performing arts in those days.
Many of us the ’80s teenagers did miss the era of stage plays of the K Balachander and Y G Parthasarathy generation. Our parents had literally soaked in the stage creations of the bygone era that were truly dramatic. KB made successfully to the pictures in ’50s and until today there is no match for him in entire India when it comes to dealing with dramatic-turned-realistic scripts. It was bold of him to touch upon taboo subjects, far advanced for those ages and adapt them later on successfully in the silverscreen. It was risk but one which payed off luckily.
Debuting in stage and progressing to mass media like cinema also came to be a well adopted ploy to some well known political figures of Tamil Nadu who used both the forms of theater as springboard to leap into political arena. The trend started with Anna Durai, Tamil Nadu’s first dravidian party CM, who was a scriptwriter for tamil plays. It continued with K. Karunanidhi and then M G Ramachandran, all of whom used the stage as a stepping stone into silverscreen and eventually politics apart from utilizing it as (DMK) party’s propaganda machinery. Stage plays and cinema became a good medium for ‘educating’ masses on certain ‘ideologies’ synonymous to state political machinery.
One more dramatist Cho Ramaswamy well known for the wizard and king-maker he has been (in Tamil Nadu), was also popular on stage for his political plays. He had his own select faithful followers. He was in many ways our first political satirist, a novelty in the ’60s and ’70s. His stage creations were like ‘fireworks.’
The latest entry into the world of politics following the historical route of stage play-cinema-party is S Ve Shekhar, a popular comedian-dramatist from the ’80s. Shekhar remained a contemporary of Crazy Mohan from whose troupe he split after their most successful debut drama ‘Crazy Thieves in Palavakkam.’ The play infact was re-enacted in parts by many of us school kids of the ’80s for its humour content. It was a runaway hit.
Shekhar and Crazy Mohan also had the company of Mouli, a quiet humourist himself who modelled on ‘Kathadi Ramamurthy.’ The humourous brigade took aver Tamil stage after a serious rebel spell by those like Y G Parthasarathy, K Balachander and others who were their seniors.
There was also an other strain of dramas : of Jayakanthan’s genre, which are my all-time favourite. Those of us who missed his screenplays in stage caught up with them in celluloid form – as black & white magic, produced in late ’70s. ‘Oru Nadigai Nadagam Parkiraal’ (an actress watches a show) and ‘Sila Nerangalil Sila Manidhargal’ (some men at times) both classics starring Lakshmi and Srikkanth with razor sharp dialogues and retorts and fine direction are a treat to our literary senses.
As for KB, his adaptations ranged from middle-class dramas to travails of rebellious women who were protagonists of a varied kind . ‘Bama Vijayam’ to ‘Arangetram’ KB’s transition was not only smooth but also was received well by audience. (Incidentally KB also debuted in tv soaps, only one of his calibre successfully making it to all three stages of mass entertainment viz., live stage, cinema and television. Kudos to the director!)
After the heavy-themed plays of the ’60s and ’70s whether the humour brigade adopted a slightly weakened script keeping with times – is something we keep our fingers crossed about. For a matter of fact it is now figured that many a big name on the stage made it to the larger theatre called cinema without much of hitch. It couldn’t have been easy but at some stage, the crossing must have been inevitable as technology won over.The lighter side of the ’80s dramas could perhaps be attributed to changing pulse of Indian nation? While the ’60s and ’70s were unsettling phases in our political history with India engaged in multiple wars with her adversaries, the mood of the populace could have been sombre. Imposition of ‘Emergency’ in 1975 worsened matters. The ’80s saw a change in trend with a young prime minister (in Rajiv Gandhi) heralding a new era in Indian history while in the state, a popular MGR (ADMK) front took over the reins of governance. Did the combined effect, comfort factor play any indirect role in loosening up of the nerves of our script writers?
Because the idealism that we see etched in both theater and cinema of the late 1970s and early ’80s seems to be largely a missing factor from the late ’80s from when on the audience started relaxing. Late ’80s could have been undefined period where a shift could have commenced forth.
Some of us teenagers of the ’80s basked in the timeless humour of those like Crazy Mohan who also seamlessly made it to the celluloid medium scripting for pictures like ‘Avvai Shanmughi’ (Chachi 420 in Hindi starring Kamal Hassan). The ’90s saw exactly this kind of flowering of drama artists into mainstream theater personalities of the other kind. Amitabh Bachchan (of Bollywood) could have been the ‘angry young man’ of his times but instead Tamil cinema has always had ‘angry young woman’ thanks to KB. The loosening up happened with the arrival of software boom as value systems changed. This is where the crazy-kind came into foray.
The entire bunch seems to have made it along including Visu, Mouli to name the others who took to low cost production of middle-class subjects which make for an interesting viewership even today from the 1980s. Humour mixed with society values was the new mantra. Of these, Visu carved for himself a niche with branding this kind of films that were most entertaining and literal adaptations of some of his most successful stage plays.
The post would go incomplete without the mention of R S Manohar, the roaring thunder of Tamil theatre.
R S Manohar exalted playing anti-hero to the hilt in his in-house productions that were mega-hits! From period costume drama to erecting grand sets, he set a benchmark in stage plays that kept packed auditoriums pinned to their seats in anticipation and thrill. Famous for his histrionics on stage, Manohar screened historical plays/epics like Ramayan, Mahabharat or mostly some select episodes/branch stories from them. His most popular play was ‘Ilangeswaran.’ (Lord of Lanka meaning Ravan) The anti-hero had a cult following playing the hideous villain laughing loud and shaking the stage with his over-acting.
The thunderous echo of dramatists like R S Manohar died away since long and what follows is steady silence in a still vacuum. There have been attempts in recent times to revive the Tamil stage, proven futile. Lack of sponsors and rigorous working climate (for aspiring artists to be cast in live stage) could be reasons for Tamil drama to linger over unveiling a bold and new era. Besides how lucrative the old business is, is a million dollar question. To hold an audience captive for hours can’t be more challenging than now, with attention span of today’s society dipping to new lows.
Stage plays are NOT and must NOT be equated to tv plays because in the former, there are no re-takes and the act has to be performed in front of a live audience. The cast has to be super-alert and on toes as there will be no second chance. Dramas nurtured the performing arts scene when there were no professional institutes grooming would-be theater personalities and technicians. The plays provided an excellent platform to express individual views as well as social concerns bringing in an awareness on their part. Tamil stage has indeed played a constructive role in instilling ‘swadeshi’ spirit in patriots in pre-Independence India.
GenNext has no clue what stage play is about. Or does it all boil down to after all one more phase of evolution in entertainment industry? It may be too much to expect a resurrection of Tamil Theater in this digital age, still for those of us bred on wholesome hearty family dramas, the loss is deeply felt.