The show must go on

Updates from : The Hindu :

The August floods were a setback for the theatre scene in Kerala but things are looking up

On August 14, senior theatre director Sasidharan Naduvil was busy with the rehearsals of his latest production, ‘Pithalasalabham,’ at the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi premises in Thrissur as incessant rain kept pouring in. By evening, Naduvil realised that it was impossible to continue the rehearsals as reports of swelling water levels started to arrive. The team stopped and dispersed. They could return to Thrissur only after a month.

The devastating August floods did not spare the stages of Kerala. Many directors, like Naduvil, were forced to stop their rehearsals and postpone the productions. Booked shows were cancelled. New enquiries stopped coming in. Now, two months after the deluge, things are slowly getting back on track. .

“This blow came right at the moment when Kerala was slowly waking up to a theatre culture,” says Arunlal, one of the young theatre makers based in Malappuram whose Little Earth Theatre Group has been successfully performing a repertory of their plays throughout Kerala targeting mainly the rural and small town audience.

“The flood has affected not just theatre, but all art forms,” points out N. Radhakrishnan Nair, secretary, Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi. “It’s a hard time. All the festivals had to be cancelled or stripped off all the embellishments.” Even the International Theatre Festival of Kerala (ITFoK), the State’s prestigious international theatre event, will have to be conducted in just a basic sense, according to him.

“The post flood theatre scene here is totally stagnant,” says J. Shailaja, theatre activist and general secretary of NATAK, the Network of Artistic Theatre Activists Kerala, the organisation that voices concerns of the State’s amateur theatre.

Shailaja’s home, Vaikhary, a hub of cultural activities based in Chunakkara, her native village near Mavelikkara, got flooded. Alappuzha, one of the worst affected regions, still reels under the impact and naturally, theatre is pushed off to the last rows of priority.

In Ernakulam district, which also suffered heavily, the scene is equally dismal. Shabu K. Madhavan, theatre activist and district secretary of NATAK, said that a production that they had been planning under the organisation’s banners could not even be started due to shortage of funds. “The shortage of funds is severe,” says Shabu. “And we can’t blame the public, because everyone have been doling out as much as they can for the relief efforts,” he said.

Deepan Sivaraman’s ‘Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’, which was to have been staged in Ernakulam in September was cancelled. Chandradasan managed to complete the rehearsals of ‘Shakunthalam,’ the latest production from Lokadharmi, but could not do a public staging. The stagnation has hit deep not just in the flood hit regions. Even in the northern districts of Kannur and Kasaragode which did not bear too much of a direct brunt, the scene is dull with the general lack of funds. “Some 20 amateur theatre competitions used to be held in this season in Kannur and Kasaragode districts, but nothing has happened this year,” says Sreejith Poyilkavu, another young theatreperson who hails from Kannur district. ‘The Great Indian Circus,’ a production he was planning based on the play, ‘The Accidental Death of An Anarchist,’ with a Thrissur-based group, got cancelled in the aftermath of the flood. ‘Panthirukulam,’ from Udinoor, Kasaragode was perhaps the only play that had managed to get a couple of shows in the post-flood months.

For Kerala’s theatre community, it’s an uphill task ahead. Groups are now strivingkeep the stages alive. Naduvil opened his play, ‘Pithalasalabham,’ presented by Remembrance Theatre Group to a packed audience at Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi’s Murali Theatre last weekend. The play, narrating a rural legend that speaks of the upper caste people’s tricks for subordinating and controlling the subaltern people, uses a wide range of folk art forms.

‘Peru,’ (The Name), directed by Nikhildas with script by Sagar Sathyan for Invisible Lighting Solutions, postponed due to the floods was staged at Gramika, a cultural space located in Kuzhikkattussery, in a totally rural setting last week.

As the industry gets its act together it is egged on by the famed script- the show must go on.

Theatre at Relief Camps

Despite being affected by the floods themselves, theatre persons helped with rescue and relief work. Nikhildas and friends had conducted workshops in the relief camps held in their village, Adat and Anthikkad. Hari K.B., C.R. Rajan and others from Thrissur Nataka Sangham presented small theatre sketches in the camps in Thrissur district. Manu Jose and his group MEANDYOU toured the different camps throughout Kerala, offering solacethrough art therapy. The band Oorali, led by theatreperson Martin Oorali sang for people at different camps. . In Kollam, NATAK Kollam district committee staged , ‘Kanivode Kollam, in Kollam and Pathanamthitta districts.

NATAK had also given a call to support the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund. The Kannur district committee collected Rs. 1,15, 500 for the CMDRF. In Thiruvananthapuram, Kanal Samskarika Vedi staged ‘Bhagavante Maranam,’ directed by Hasim Amaravila, the revenue of which was handed over to the CMDRF.

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