KOCHI: The year is 1988. Two friends met in a room in Thrissur. They talked endlessly till 3 am about theatre plays and its possibilities. Before drifting off to sleep, they agreed on one thing: Plays are crucial devices for the development of a country. That was the last meeting literary critic M K Sanu had with playwright G Sankara Pillai. Sometime after this, Sankara Pillai passed away on a New Year’s Eve.
On Sunday, Kochi witnessed a rare occasion. For the first time in 30 years, Sankara Pillai’s disciples met at Nanappa Art Gallery in Kochi for Sanu’s lecture and an exhibition dedicated in memory of the late playwright.
“We were really good friends. He was a lot younger than me. I say our friendship was made before we were even born,” Sanu told Express.On January 1, 1989, Sanu was in Varkala to give a speech. Sankara Pillai’s death was announced on the radio. But the organisers of the event did not let Sanu know until after his speech. “They didn’t tell me because they feared I might refuse to speak after hearing the news. They were true, I might not have,” he said. That was the extent of their friendship.
According to Sanu, Sankara Pillai always stressed two things in their conversations: Discipline in plays and experimentation. “He believed people should be given proper and systematic training in expressions and plays. This was later implemented in the Nadaka Kalari,” said Sanu.
He also said Sankara Pillai’s play ‘Swargadoothan’, which was about Buddha bidding farewell to his wife and son, was considered a well-made play with an introduction, middle and end. “He later began putting symbols in his plays. One such play was ‘Karutha Daivathe Thedi’. Sankara Pillai said the era of well-made plays is over and it is time to experiment,” said Sanu.
He said, however, as time goes by, theatre folk sometimes do not remember Sankara Pillai.“That is unfortunate,” he said. “But the event on Sunday is an awakening. His disciples -director Shyamaprasad,
actor P Balachandran, actor Sandhya Rajendran to name a few- still keep Sankara Pillai’s memory alive.”
This would remind one of Sanu’s retirement party reception. During the event, Sankara Pillai said their friendship will grow and flourish until one of them died. To this, Sanu added, “If I am the one leaving last, I’ll still have you living in my heart.”