Chennai: The Madras Players for the first time will be staging seven short stories of renowned writer R. Chudamani in the city. These stories have been translated by retired judge and writer Prabha Sridevan, most of them in the collection, Seeing In The Dark.
Chudamani has been adapted as a play by Nikhila Kesavan and will be directed for the Madras Players by P.C. Ramakrishna on September 23, 24, and 25 at Museum Theatre. The main players of the show P.C. Ramakrishna, Nikhila Kesavan and Prabha Sridevan shared their thoughts with DC about the writer and play.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q Do you think the play would relate to the audience of 21st century?
PC: I directed Water, translation of Komal Swaminathan’s Thanneer Thanneer, in 2012. Although the play was written and set in 1980, it engaged our audiences in 2012, because of the theme, relevance, strong story and real characters. Chudamani is very much like that. I first read Chudamani’s novella Yamini 25 years ago and it touched me deeply. She has written over 500 short stories, and I have read several of them. Although she wrote many of her stories in the 1970s, her evolved vision makes them supremely relevant today.
Q How do you adapt a Tamil short story to the stage?
Nikhila: Thanks to Prabha Sridevan’s sensitive translation, I got to work with Chudamani’s writing. Adapting each of the seven stories that we selected was not very difficult; the true challenge was in weaving the seven stories into one seamless play. I have used Chudamani herself as a narrator to string the stories together. But I have tried to give a unique role to the narrator in each story. In one story, she just listens to the characters who are telling her their story, in one story she becomes a character herself, and in yet another she acts a sounding board and catalyst helping the protagonist find answers about her life.
Q Why did you chose Chudamani?
PC: The Madras Players for the last couple of decades have turned their focus to celebrating Indian writing, and it is this continuing thrust that has brought Chudamani to limelight.
Q Can you stay true to the source material while putting your spin on it?
Nikhila: When I do an adaptation, I stay very faithful to the storyline and the words of the author. However, I use my perspective to edit and bring in some dramatic techniques that help highlight some aspects of the story while underplaying some others. The author gives me the story, but I am the storyteller.
Q What impressed you in Chudamani’s stories?
Nikhila: I was amazed by her unconventional and fresh treatment of various themes. Many of her themes and stories are quite avant-garde.
Q How were the seven stories chosen?
These seven stories moved me and P.C. Ramakrishna immensely. I think that was key deciding factor. These stories avoid stereotypes, and present refreshingly new characters. These stories give us surprising and interesting insights, revelations and moments. And, I was confident that they were dramatic and had good potential for stage adaptation. I hope the audience enjoys them too.
I remain awestruck by her incredible writing: Prabha Sridevan
I am very happy that Chudamani has gone to stage. I know Madras Players will definitely do a good job. Chudamani was a remarkable writer. When I read her stories and translated them I found that she was acutely bilingual.
There was no sermonising in her stories and she struck no strident note. She was far ahead of her time. I am still awestruck by her incredible writing and she deserves a special place in the world of literature....