The curtain goes up on Kodai Nataka Vizha


The 12-day annual drama festival, Kodai Nataka Vizha, that showcases new and established theatre groups, begins today

The 12-day annual drama festival, that showcases new and established theatre groups, begins today

The 1950s heralded the dawn of a new era in Tamil theatre, when several amateur troupes were founded. Over the next three decades, they played an important role in creating a vibrant theatre atmosphere, where almost every play drew huge crowds. The era also saw several new writers making their debut, with a few also graduating to writing for films. It was the late Kartik Rajagopal, who saw the need to promote amateur theatre. ‘My father, a great theatre lover, was one of the founder-members of Mylapore Fine Arts Club in 1951. Many veterans such as Cho, K. Balachander, Komal Swaminathan, Jaishankar, and ‘Major’ Sundararajan inaugurated their plays under the Mylapore Fine Arts Club banner. The warm relationship continued when he started Kartik Fine Arts in 1975. Many troupes began premiering their plays at KFA,” says Rajagopal Sekar, the current secretary of the sabha.

But a dedicated festival for theatre, on the lines of the December music season, did not come about until 1990. At the suggestion of KFA’s then president, A.V.S. Raja, the first Kodai Nataka Vizha was held that year. For the first few years, the festival featured plays by established troupes such as Crazy Creations, UAA, and Natakhapriya. Recognising the need to encourage young actors, directors and writers, which he deemed essential for the survival and growth of theatre, Kartik Rajagopal suggested that the festival be restructured as a drama competition, where new scripts would be inaugurated and would compete for a prize. The first Kodai Nataka Vizha, under this new format, was held in 1996.

A section of the audience at the Narada Gana Sabha, during the Kodai Nataka Vizha, in 2016. 2016.
| Photo Credit: B. Jothi Ramalingam/The Hindu

Perfect platform

Over the course of its journey, the theatre festival has served as a great platform for both amateur and established theatre groups. ‘We are extremely happy to have staged the plays of several well-known writers such as Chandramohan, Sreevathson of Dummies, and Muthukumaran, to name a few,” says Rajagopal Sekar.

Planning for the event begins soon after the annual December art festival, when letters are sent out to various troupes inviting their participation. In the past, troupes from Coimbatore and Bengaluru too have performed at theVizha. That the festival is recognised as a major platform today to inaugurate a play is borne by the fact that more than 15 scripts were received this year for an available slot of 12 plays. “We ensure a mix of first-timers and regular performers. And those who do not find a place in the festival, we try to accommodate them in our monthly programmes.” The 2022 edition features four first-timers.

Drawing new audiences, especially youngsters, is the other important objective of the festival. A reason why it has always been a non-ticketed event. “It was a conscious decision, as my father wanted these plays to reach a larger audience. The festival is timed to coincide with the summer vacation so that parents can watch the plays with their children, and spend time together in the comfort of an air-conditioned hall,” he says.

Recognition for artistes

Every year, over 30 awards, and 12 rolling trophies are given under various categories. The rolling trophies have been sponsored by theatre personalities such as S.Ve. Shekher, and troupes such as Stage Creations and UAA. Most fittingly, the Best Director trophy has been instituted by K. Balachander, while the one for the best story writer, by Kartik Rajagopal himself. With a view to promote audience participation, cash prizes are also awarded for the two best reviews of each play.

Troupes that win the first and second prizes are awarded subsidies of ₹ 10,000 and ₹ 5,000 respectively, if their plays are staged 10 times before March 31, the following year.

The 31st Kodai Nataka Vizha will be inaugurated today (6 p.m.) at Narada Gana Sabha, by N. Ravi, Chairman, Kasturi and Sons Ltd.

The writer is a heritage buff and an amateur Tamil theatre artiste.

The Playlist

The following is the list of plays to be staged during the Kodai Nataka Vizha, to be held at Narada Gana Sabha, from April 22 to May 3, 7 p.m.

April 22: Chinchu Pinchu

April 23: Minmanigal

April 24: Panchavadi

April 25: Edhir Vinai

April 26: Aaranju

April 27: Thathpurushaya

April 28: MamaMaaple 2.0

April 29: Title

April 30: Seethapathi

May 1: Tharai Mel Pirakka Vaithaan

May 2: Kadavule Idhu Nyayama?

May 3: Aval Peyar Sakthi

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