CHENNAI: While growing up in Dubai, Mathivanan Rajendran aka Mathi, watched a plethora of cartoons. Borrowing video tapes from a large collection that his father owned, he began exploring movies and the art of acting. “In the 1980s, there was a huge boom in TV and people were coming up with TV shows. I used to watch them all, especially movies and cartoons. I think all of that drew me to the performing arts,” says the stage actor-cum-founder, Stray Factory. He will be delivering a master class on his field of expertise, as part of the new series of Platform for Artists (PFA).
When Mathi returned to India after his Masters from Virginia Tech, with a degree in human factors and ergonomics, he began working in a design research company. And a few years later, after completing the massive task of paying off his student loans, he began dabbling with acting, direction, teaching and consulting — in a quest to follow his passion for the arts.
Talking about his transition over the years and finding his ‘space’, he shares, “I think my space, when I started, was about getting out of the system of doing grunt work. I was anxious and wanted to come back, finish paying the loan, and get back to being creative,” recalls Mathi.
This festival director of the biggest 10-minute performing arts festival in the world, ‘Short+Sweet Film Festival’, infuses movements in theatre, and has also recently been curious about understanding the relationship between rituals and theatre.
“Earlier, while watching theatre, I could see that something was amiss. It was only when I began travelling, I realised there was an entire vocabulary we weren’t exposed to. That’s when the idea of movements in theatre kicked in. I have been curious about different rituals and their correlation with theatre. So, I am trying to understand more about it,” he shares.
Mathi recalls memories of performing at a local prison in South Africa. “About three or four years ago, I packed solo and went to South Africa for a fringe theatre festival. I had to set up the stage and sell tickets all by myself. During that time, I was asked to do an outreach performance for a local prison,” he narrates.
He performed in front of a courtyard full of 20-year-olds who were convicted for rape. “I didn’t know why they were in prison. We shared experiences and they all seemed like nice guys. Once it was done, I asked the warden why? And his response was one of the weirdest moments in my life! But, it also adds up to my experience,” he says.
For the YouTube channel Rascalas, Mathi and his team dabbled with stand-up comedy. “To move from theatre to the internet, from a niche to a mass set up, was initially difficult. But we wanted to keep doing new things,” says Mathi, who has now moved towards producing a film. “It’s a movie called Nasir. It could be the first Indo-Dutch co-production in India. If everything falls in place, it’ll be the first Tamil-Dutch co-production!” he says.
Mathivanan will present his master class on February 17, from 2-5pm at Wandering artist, Chennai