Our story: A snapshot on stage of the Sydney Tamil community

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HAMSA VENKAT on the Tamil stage production Namma Kathai – ‘Our Story’

 

Art is a reflection of life, it is said. Sydney Nadaka Priya’s recent Tamil production Namma Kadhai held a mirror to society reflecting its many hues and shades. The canvas was large and colourful as the actors painted their stories bringing to life a page from each character.

The play was held on 21 March 2015, at Castle Hill High School under the auspices of VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad).

The brush moved in quick flicks from the plight of Manju (Uma) who wonders how to deal with her husband (Murthy) on the one side – who is steeped in tradition, bringing home a 5 kilo sack of potatoes each week from the markets – to her two young carbs conscious daughters on the other side (Sindhu and Meygha), who are ever ready to push the boundaries.

Says Uma, “As we got closer to the staging, we began calling each other by the character names rather than our own names.”

This was evident for all to see in the way each character presented themselves on stage.

“The cast and crew were all passionate about theatre, which drove us to give our best,” says Murthy.

The conversations among Manju, Gopal, Diya and Brinda were so real that every individual in the audience, parent or child could relate to it with ease.

The play ranged through a gamut of emotions, engaging expression to dynamic dialogues, and frolicking fun to subtle satire. Desperately trying to teach the younger generation (Nethra, Akshay, Vishakha, Rithika, Sahana and Sriman) the ways of tradition, Pattu mami (Jayam) realises that the best way to get across is to meet them halfway. Pattu mami finishes Act 1 with a flourish, in cool sunnies and a trendy jacket, rocking to the heartbeat of the youth.

Maapu idhu youth” is a punchline that will stay with the audience for a long time.

Graceful dancing by Meygha, Sindhu and Aparna, joined by Jayam and the kids brought Act 1 to a finish with thundering applause from the audience. Be it 80-year-old Jayam mami or the 8-year-old kids, their sense of enjoyment and camaraderie on and off stage was infectious.

The need to get their permanent residence visas in Australia and to strike the balance of marital harmony is the plight faced by young Janvi (Gayathri ) and Srikanth (N.K.Srinivasan). A multi dimensional perspective is added on with the arrival of the mother-in-law (Jaishree), anxious in the beginning about her first trip abroad, ending in her fascination for Sydney and her enthusiasm to travel the world with her daughter.

“I am always keen to try different dialects and characters. Namma Kathai gave me the opportunity to speak the Iyengar dialect which I thoroughly enjoyed learning and enacting” says Jaishree who lived the character from the top of her thiruman to the tip of her madisaru. It was no surprise that Gayathri and N.K. Srinivasan played their roles to perfection…. electric in their stage presence. Being a couple in real life too, their rapport, their everyday practice at the bickering and romance, seemed to pay off on stage.

How to stick to the agenda of the meeting without distractions and come up with a concrete idea for an annual program, is the debate that keeps the senior citizens going. Right from the Chairman (Prakash) who is never willing to give up his special chair, to Ananthu (Balasundar) who having enjoyed a life of leisure in India has to now dance to the tunes of his Home Minister, his daughter-in-law, from Vittal Rao (R.Kannan) who though old in years is young at heart, cheekily asking for a young heroine to accompany him in the play, to the pan chewing Ramasubbu (Shankar) who has finally made it on the Visa list, the actors effectively presented their quest for an identity as they age in life, leaving an indelible mark in the minds of the audience.

“It never ceases to amaze me that somehow the SNP team magically brings it all together,” exclaims Shankar with pride. “What a beautiful bunch of people I am privileged to be associated with!”

The cast and crew indeed created magic as subtle stage props and backdrops by Rama Vishwanathan added colour to the production, as did the quick scene changes managed by Suja Pradeep, J.K, Murali, Lakshmi, Vidya and Balasubramaniam. Ably supported by Shruthi (choreography of dances), Mohan (lighting), Ranjith and Raj (sound), Sriram and Gokul (photography and videography), and Ramu, Krishnamurthy, Muthu and Venkat (general assistance).

Director N.K Srinivasan is convinced when he says, “It is the increased support base and the number of people that volunteer to be a part of SNP that help make things happen.”

Underneath all that one can see on stage, director N.K. Srinivasan with artistry and stagecraft highlights the main theme that life is all about walking the tight rope, concentrating on keeping your balance and doing it with a smile.

It definitely left the audience walking out with a smile, replete that it was indeed Namma Kadhai -Our Story – reflected on stage.

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Hamsa Venkat is a keen explorer of the art form of Bharathanatyam and is a dancer from the Kalakshetra School of dancing in Chennai
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