KOCHI: They used to look forward to Sivarathri during their childhood days. A day when their acrobatics was given audience. “We turned a room of our ancestral house in Cherunniyoor in Thiruvananthapuram into a stage. A theme was discussed and each dialogue was delivered impromptu despite the witty prompting from the other characters. At times a good play evolved and at times it flopped with hoots coming from the rest of the joint family which comprised the audience. This is how we kept the night awake,” says Cherunniyoor Jayaprasad, who is into scripting and directing plays for the last few decades.
His latest award is the best script for his ‘Ivide shokanumjeevichirunnu’ by Sahithi Theatres, Thiruvananthapuram, at the all-Kerala professional drama competition organised by the KCBC Media Commission. He won the state award for the best play and best director in 2006.
Scripting and directing go hand in hand in Jayaprasad’s mind. He has been writing plays and directing many since 1971. After a passive phase at school, he became active and was associated with many theatre troupes during his college days at S N Polytechnic in Kollam where he did a diploma in engineering. The jobless days that followed saw him founding Young Men’s Association and staging many plays. He acted too but when he couldn’t fit into some of the characters he bid goodbye to it. The recognition for the district-level amateur drama contests boosted his confidence. The play ‘Typhoon’ scripted and directed by him got good response. “My scripts are simple as I want to relate to little children and people at different levels,” says Jayaprasad. That was in the mid 70s. Soon the shipyard in Kochi beckoned him with a job in ship designing. He was overwhelmed with the Recreation Club there which gave him a platform.
“I am thankful to the favourable atmosphere at my work place. Otherwise it would have been more difficult to balance both.” He got to interact with Sankara Pillai and other stalwarts in dramadom. Besides he travelled many paths of drama through books. “I keep my eyes and ears open for topics.” His plays are mostly based on social issues and topical subjects. He has also experimented with folk theatre and epic theatre. In ‘Iniyum Marikkatha Karnan’, he takes Karna out of the Mahabharata and has him questioning Vyasa about why he had to traverse the path which was not in tune with his character. And Vyasa explains that each of the characters are expressions of his mind’s turbulence. Jayaprasad depicts Duryodhana in good light. “The play won rich applause but was poor on the purse.”
Jayaprasad started his own troupe Nila—named so because Kerala culture is born on its banks—in 1987 which is Oachira-based and has staged 23 plays. “I stage them in Oachira before taking them out.”
Jayaprasad does both amateur and professional drama. “Today the distance between professional and amateur drama is wide. Moreover the number of fine art societies which supported plays are coming down. So are the grameen kalasamithis. Commercialisation is rampant everywhere. It is difficult to script plays with young women in mind, for we have a dearth of young actresses in professional drama,” says Jayaprasad, who will be retiring next May.
He plans to watch more plays and keep pace with what he has missed in theatre. “Bahrain has received my play ‘Truth India TV Channel’ well and a school there wants my guidance.” He also wants to bridge the gap between amateur and professional theatre by doing plays which fall between the two.