Twenty-20 of theatre

K.T. Mohammed's Swantham Lekhakan is being staged again after years by the theatre group Celebrity Kerala led by Kalasala Babu.

There was no specific trigger, but a lot many little reasons came together for Kalasala Babu to make some calls and form a theatre group of actors from different mediums. He is a theatre veteran himself who appears on and off in movies, mostly in character roles. Babu has been directing plays for a long time now and this time, he has revived an old one, from the 70s, one in which he had once played the lead — Swantham Lekhakan. He roped in 12 actors with him and named the group Celebrity Kerala. They will have their first stage at the Fine Arts Hall in Kochi this Sunday.

“The play may be old but it is still very relevant to the times we live in now,” says Babu, sitting with the artistes at the auditorium of Kumarapuram Sree Subramanya Temple in Nettoor where the group has been rehearsing for days. “K.T. Mohammed’s Swantham Lekhakan is being revived just as it was played in the 1970s, no changing times or modernisations coming in to make a difference in it,” says Babu, who has directed some notable plays like Thalavattam with Surassu, Socialism with P.J. Antony and Malayum Manushyanum with N.N. Pillai. As soon as Babu suggested the idea to make Swantham Lekhakan, he got two producers — Ranjith Ponnan and K.V. Shaji. Ranjith also plays a role in it — Shekar.

The others gathered around, speak of their roles, and the reason that pulled them all in — ‘Because Kalasala Babu chettan called’. At least five of them are coming on stage for the first time, being more familiar with other media like cinema and television. “There is the fear that we will have no retakes on stage,” says Neena Kurup, film and serial actor. One of the main characters is by actor Vishnu, popular on television, turning Ajayan, the role that Kalasala Babu had played long ago. “The main character is a telephone. Every character is introduced through the telephone. It will be kept in the centre and every time a character answers a call, his/her story will be told,” says Babu. It is a detective drama with elements of comedy.

Actors during rehearsalActors during rehearsal

As we speak, veteran comedian Kochupreman’s recorded voice is heard in the background. But there will be no dubbing on the stage, Babu says. Everyone will be using their own voice. “It will be a live drama — which means everyone will be speaking in their casual everyday tones, without the element of drama one usually associates with theatre,” Babu adds and another veteran KTS Padannayil goes to explain the different types of theatre. A familiar face from the film industry and theatre, KTS plays a politician. He had not seen the play when Babu played the lead back in the 70s. “I was playing other dramas,” he laughs his trademark laugh.

The youngest in the group — Teenu — plays Shalini, the female lead. Used to television serials, and now a film, Teenu says this is new to her — being on stage, facing the audience. And Babu adds, “There is something called stage balancing. And dialogue variation — how to behave on stage, the moments, positions.” But the first-timers have all adapted quickly, he says. Actors Tony and Naveen Arakkal are also coming on stage for the first time. “I am from the serial industry and I consider this a golden opportunity,” Naveen says. He plays SI Prabhakaran, and Tony, Sreedhara Menon.

Another veteran in the play is Babu Namboodiri, famous through the many character roles he played in the 80s, especially ‘Thangal’ in Thoovanathumbikal. Kulappulli Leela, another popular actor, plays Lakshmy while Zeenath plays Gracy. Kochu Preman plays attender Sukumar and Bindu Ramakrishnan, Kunjamina. “Every character and every little prop, each movement on the stage should have a purpose,” Babu says. “There are so many artistes today but few are born artistes.” But then theatre is once again becoming popular, after a reduced interest on it came with the advent of cinema and new technologies. Neena says, “The stepsister treatment of theatre and even television serials, should change, is changing.” The proceeds from the play will go to FACE, a charitable society.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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