CHENNAI: If you are familiar with the poems of Mahakavi Bharathiyar, feminism may not be a new concept to you. But, a lot of what the turban-clad poet said in his verses, might have been misrepresented/inflated over the years, says Vijayalakshmi Kannan, a 26-year-old dramaturg. Kannan has been spearheading Manch productions, a Singapore based theatre company, for the past two years. After staging productions like Vikraman, an adaptation of Kalki’s Parthiban Kanavu, and Hasthinapuram for the longest dance theatre staged for Singapore Book of Records, Manch is now venturing into the arts scene in Chennai.
Along with Krishnanjali Academy, the company will stage one-of-a-kind Tamil musical production ‘Vizhi Chudarae’, a reprise of sorts of the Broadway theatre. In the few years, a handful of English theatre companies in the city, inspired by Broadway, have tried their hands at musicals. But, the Tamil theatre arena hasn’t been entirely exposed to the genre. ‘Vizhi Chudarae’ will bring a breath of fresh air to the city’s Tamil theatre scene.
The musical will weave Bharathiyar poems which reflect on modern feminism, with intricately woven dance, live orchestra and fine theatrics. “We have been rehearsing for over two months and this is a really exciting step for us,” she says.
Talking about the concept, Vijayalakshmi says, “Feminism is an idea or a subject about which everyone has a varied opinion. Nevertheless, we stand by the good, the bad and the ugly that this notion brings us.” Delving into feminism, a concept that is relevant yet ‘tricky’ in today’s world, she tells us the three key points which will be represented in the musical. “In this modern time, where we have prevailing matters that we are fighting for, I believe that we should revisit some of the basic feminine quality that we may have forgotten or lost touch over time... qualities which make us truly a woman,” she shares and adds, “Man shaming does not equal to feminism. Today, there are men standing up for women and we should acknowledge that. Women should support other women. There will be strings of representations of these points on stage,” she says.
The artistic direction for the musical is by V Balagurunathan, dancer and teacher from Kalakshetra. “Music director Hariprasad K has composed the tracks for the play. He hails from Kalakshetra as well. He has an experience spanning across decades,” shares Vijayalakshmi. Vocal training for dancers has been rendered by Pravin Saivi, an upcoming musician in Chennai, and a well known musician in Singapore. It also features Singapore-based actor Vishnu M Anand who will be playing the role of Bharathiyar. Post the Chennai premier of the production, ‘Vizhi Chudarae’ will tour Singapore. “Since our company is originally from Singapore, we will be taking it there. The goal is to make it on par with Broadway... we are just taking baby steps,” she adds.
(Vizhi Chudarae will be staged on October 27 from 7 pm at Rasika Ranjani Sabha)