Theatre practitioner Vithura Sudhakaran set off on a journey to Kashmir from Kerala on his motorcycle on March 27, World Theatre Day, with an aim to take his play Ekatha, across India. Today, he has covered six states — Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan — and will be travelling to New Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Kashmir. “I started this journey with nothing but my bike and a desire to perform,” says Sudhakaran.
Calling it Theatre on Wheels, Sudhakaran says the idea is to spread the joy and relevance of threatre. Encoruaged by the warm response he received from the places he performed in, Sudhakaran says: “I was touched by people’s interest in theatre. At some venues, people would not immediately leave after the show. They would hang around, ask questions and we would have a discussion. As a theatre person, it is indeed heartwarming to see people appreciate the art form.”
He had been toying with the idea of creating a play such as Ekatha for three years. The play, a solo performance, is a theatrical adaptation of portions from works of renowned writers in 12 Indian languages. Putting it together took time and effort, says Sudhakaran. With the guildance and help from Abhilash Pillai, former dean of the National School of Drama and the director of Calicut School of Drama, and PT Anilkumar, journalist and writer, Ekatha was ready. “They helped me piece together relevant passages from different works in different languages to create this narrative. Some of the authors whose works I have used for this play, include Kavalam Narayana Panikkar (Malayalam), Na Muthuswamy (Tamil), Shivaram Karanth (Kannada), Rabindranath Tagore (Bengali) and Kalidasa (Sanskrit) to mention a few,” says Sudhakaran.
The 28-minute play, which includes 13 costume changes, touches upon topics such as women’s safety and environmental conservation.
Sudhakaran says he did not have contacts in all the states he was travelling to. “I happened to find some one who would arrange a venue in another city and it has worked out like a network so far. I am amazed at the way people have helped me on this journey,” says Sudhakaran.
Traversing the country at over 60 years of age, in soaring tempereatures, has not been challenging so far, says Sudhakaran. “I am driven by my passion for theatre. So, even if the temperature is at 50 degree Celsius, it has not affected me adversely. I usually start my journey from one city to another after a performance by 5 am. Some times, the venues where I perform offer boarding. I have also slept at petrol bunks. I don’t ride after 7pm. The people who I have met on this journey have been exceptionally kind to me. ”
A retired employee of BSNL, Sudhakaran, has been active in theatre for over 50 years. Director of Suhruth Nataka Kalari at Vithura, in Thiruvananthapuram. He is the recipient of Kerala State Sangeetha Nataka Akademi’s Kalasree award, among other awards.