With Tamil plays like Pattanathil Bootham, theatre groups help children look beyond the usual English classics
For all their naiveté, children make for a tough audience. To entice and sustain their interest, and take them back to their roots, theatre groups in the city are scripting Tamil plays exclusively for the tots. “It is important that plays for children focus on the language being used,” says Aysha Rau, managing trustee of The Little Theatre. Having done over 10 stage productions exclusively for children, she says a lot is “lost in translation when performances focussing on Indian culture are showcased in English”.
The newest children’s play in town is Pattanathil Bootham, renowned music composer Karthik Raja’s debut theatre directorial. To be staged over the weekend, the two-hour Tamil play is loosely based on Aladdin and the Magic Lamp. With a stellar cast including actor Nasser, singers Chinmayi, Rahul Nambiar and BlaaZe, sophisticated Dolby sound and music composed by Raja himself, you’d think it is for a mixed age group. But this is a play for children, insists Raja. “Though we hadn’t started out with that idea, when the script was being written, we felt its inherent humour lent itself to a younger audience. So we reworked it, removing expressions that they may not relate to,” he says.
Lessons and laughter
Theatre can be a tool to educate, too, albeit in an entertaining manner, believes the Alchemy Kids Theatre, which is planning to re-stage its play, Drishti, in early 2016. “It is based on how children see the country and what changes they can bring about,” says CEO Vijay Viswanathan, adding that the seriousness of the theme is compensated by the entertaining scripting and a nine-minute showcase of Indian folk dance forms. Interestingly, the play features 10 young actors—between eight and 14—and only two adults. The play had premiered this January to a packed Museum Theatre.
Coming up next January is another localised adaptation, of the Frog Prince, by Crea Shakthi. In the last two months, the theatre institution has attempted classroom theatre in over 60 schools, involving short 10-minute plays. “Our feedback was that the more local the content, the greater its impact,” says creative head, Dushyanth Gunashekar. This experience has come handy in planning their stage productions, including the script that is currently being developed—where the prince is being replaced by a Chennai businessman who faces the consequence of destroying a mangrove for business interests. In order to keep it real, the characters will speak a smattering of English, too.
Pattanathil Bootham, September 18-20, 7 pm, at the Music Academy. Tickets from Rs 350 onwards. Details: eventjini.com