Madras a quiet civilized, elegant and
cultured city in the southern part of India. It means many things to
many people. For some it is simply home, for others it is a dead
slow city, and for some others it is the city which has
attained the perfect balance between the West and the East. But
everybody agrees on one thing it is one of the cultural
centers in India.
At first glance, one
would be lulled into thinking that the entertainment scene in Madras
is limited to just classical dance. But scratch the surface, and you
will see another face of Madras a more complete and wholesome
picture of this culturally rich city.
At present anybody
wishing to spend an evening out, can choose between theatre, both
Tamil and English, dance recitals or musical concerts.
On a Saturday evening, a
visit to the Music Academy will prove beyond any doubt that a large
portion of the population still flocks to the theatres and sabhas
for wholesome, live entertainment. As far as theatre is concerned, it
still remains the most popular of the three dance, music and
theatre. In Madras, theatre is basically divided into the sabha
oriented theatre and the non-sabha oriented theatre.
The sabha oriented
theatre is the more popular of the two. It basically satisfies the
masses need for a good laugh. Usually, a parody on the latest
political issue or trend and supported by slap-stick comedy and
ribald jokes, its reach is very wide. The non-sabha oriented theatre
is basically comprised of historical plays and plays based on
in-depth analysis of the various aspects of life. In the Tamil play
scene the leading players are S.V. Shekar, Y.G. Mahendran (both of
whose plays are very popular among the crowds both young and
old), Chanakya (whose themes revolve around the family and related
themes), Ramani (who focuses on inter-personal relationship), Augusto
(whose plots carry a large element of suspense and thrill) and
Manohar (who is among the very few who deals with historical plays).
English theatre in Madras
is also coming of age with plays being staged by various consulates,
like the Trident and the Park Sheraton, encouraging Dinner Theatre.
The daily newspapers The Hindu also sponsors plays in
Madras. In fact, English theatre has become so popular that crowds
are pulled in on the strength of the name of the director alone.
Michael Muthu being one such director whose plays are assured of a
good opening at the least.
Another form of theatre
that has been evoking a good response in Madras is the Daily
Theatre. At present V. Gopalakrishnan is one of the few
exponents of this form of theatre, which lasts for about one and a
half months, in the months immediately after summer.
But the advent of
satellite T.V. has done a lot of harm to the development and
popularity of theatre. With more and more people opting to stay at
home and watch the world from there, the crowd-pulling ability of
theatre has come down. But many theatre enthusiasts believe that this
cannot destroy theatre in the long run. The number of people
coming to the theatre may have come down. But this is only a passing
phase and will soon pass. Eventually people will get bored of the
stuff being shown on T.V. and flock back to the theatre says
Dr. S. Gopalie, well-known theatre personality and critic. Theatre
will never die. It may change its form; from the larger theatre
(sabhas) it will evolve into the smaller theatre (TV); but it will
never die he adds.
In the field of dance,
classical dance forms still holds forth as the leader. The knowledge
of the various nuances of the classical dance form being quite high
in Madras, it has a larger audience here than anywhere else. However
the number of solo recitals have come down and the dance ballets seem
to pull in more crowds, nowadays. The performance of padams
are on the decline and more and more artists now prefer to perform
kirthis because they are simpler. Also the duration of these
performances have come down from two-and a-half hours to
one-and-a-half hours or even less. This is mainly due to the fact
that the concept of custom changes in between performances is almost
extinct. Another factor is that the composition of the audience has
also changed over the last few years they are now more restive
than ever before.
In the present
scenario, promotion of self has picked up rather than promotion of
art. This has resulted in quality of performance being compromised
says Maithrai Ramadurai a dance enthusiast.
Anitha Ramnachandran an
exponent of Mohini Attam says, I feel that dance ballets
are more popular than solo-performances. Even in solo-performances, a
good crowd turnout can be expected only for a well-known figure. But
on the whole dance has a good future in Madras, especially since the
people are now more in tune with the spiritual value attached to it.
According to her, classical dance is a wonderful method of
disciplining ones mind and body.
Of late, Madras has also
seen many musicals being staged. Bryan Laul one of the leading
directors of musicals in Madras says, Musicals have come to
stay, because it reaches out to a wide cross-section of people. Now
with mass-media and computer graphics and technology also being
involved the future is very bright and exciting. Bryan was
earlier involved with direct theatre, but shifted to musicals because
he found it more challenging, since it embraced the elements of
dance, acting music.
Though television and
cinema have made inroads into the popularity and crowd-pulling
ability of theatres and crowd-pulling ability of theatres and sabhas,
the artists and the die-hard dance, music and theatre enthusiasts do
not seem unduly worried. They all share the belief that nothing can
take away from these forms of art their basic essence and popularity.
According to them all this talk about the end of the theatre or dance
is only a lot of empty-talk and as far as they are concerned live
performance is going to outlast recorded entertainment in the long