Three weeks. Forty plays. Around 150 people involved with their fingers in all sorts of theatre pies – acting, directing, writing, stage managing. It was a big fat theatre festival and there is nothing better than a big, fat theatre festival to bring together Chennai’s theatre community. From being restricted to acting and interacting with your own circle of friends or colleagues, theatre festivals generally bring together the youngest and the oldest, the most experienced and the inexperienced. Short+Sweet Chennai 2013 was no different.
The three-week fiesta, which had its finale on Sunday, had the who’s who of the theatre community rub shoulders with theatre insiders as well as the newbies. The event has had 10 first time directors, six first time writers, 20 first time actors all bound together with their love for theatre. Rajiv Rajendra, the festival director says that it was like a mini city in itself.
“With so many young people involved in the festival, it has been a lot of fun. Especially for the older and more experienced demographic because these youngsters brought in a whole different kind of energy.”
The youngest actor in the whole set was 16-year-old Nikitha, who acted as the NRI, taking Tamil lessons in Chennai, in Slowly Tamilu Will Grow, which was showcased in week two of the festival. While two of the oldest, coincidentally, were 54-year-old Prema Sadasivan and 57-year-old Geetha Narayanan from the same play. Prema, who has been acting for more than 30 years in Tamil theatre and is affiliated to the Shraddha group, says that the experience was an eye-opener, both in terms of working with new artistes and the sheer variety of content on display. “For someone who has been in the profession for so long, it is so refreshing to see all these young people come in and bring the house down,” she says.
If the actors, both young and old were working alongside with veterans like Amit Singh from ASAP Productions and Krishna Ganapathy from Theatre Y, the directors too weren’t left behind. Youngsters, just barely out of their teens, took up the director’s seat. And boy did they shine! Tanvi Patel, Nayantara Nayar, Roshan Mathew and Satish Shanmugam made up the youngest batch of directors at the festival, while veteran Ajit Chitturi, at 49, was at the other end of the spectrum.
With so many different people put in the same soup pot together, what does one take away from the experience?
Says Murali Satagopan, whose play The Quest, directed by Vaidhya Sundar, was adjudged Best Play, Best Script (Jayashree Venkatesan) and Best Actor, Runner Up, “It really helped to learn how differently all of us approached theatre – and we learnt as much as we could from each other about that. There was absolutely no need for the older, more experienced crowd to support and encourage us, but they did. And the best part of it all was, nobody was looking to grow themselves. They were all looking to help the whole theatre scene grow and I think that’s what counts.”