Photo courtesy The Hindu
Another sizzling scorcher in the city yesterday, and I was only too happy to find refuge in the air-conditioned Smt. Sivagami Pethachi auditorium on the occasion of the Devan Endowments award ceremony. This programme is an annual one, organised by writer Charukesi, who is the Managing Trustee.
Any self-respecting Thamizh weekly reader knows who Devan is – the famed humorist, whose writings (in Ananda Vikatan, mainly) raised a laugh in the hearts and hearths of many. Though he died in 1957, his name has lived on....Many remember him for the character of Thuppariyum Sambu, who sort of bumbled his way into solving mysteries (a forerunner of Inspector Clousseau, maybe?). The face of Thuppariyum Sambu was immortalised by artist Gopulu, who drew him just as Devan had described him – with a sharp nose, a balding head, a weak chin, along with a generally vacant look. It was most touching to see Gopulu present on the occasion, and to hear him say to a friend how he and Devan were inseparable in those days. Kathadi Ramamurthi, who had played the character on stage, was also present.
Devan Endowments was formed about thirty years ago, and the trust has been honouring writers and artistes with medals from 1997. This year the Trust honoured two young dramatists – C. V. Chandramohan and S. Ananthkrishnan (Ananthu), who have been making waes with their offerings. R. Krishnaswami, secretary of Narada Gana Sabha, presented the medals, and talked about 'Stage Plays - Past and Present’. It was most interesting, for the speaker clearly knew what he was talking about. He traced the history of the Thamizh play from 1890, when Pammal Sammanda Mudaliar and V. V. Srinivasa Iyengar wrote plays and made them decent enough to be performed in public. Earlier plays, he said, used to be rather vulgar. Their sources included Shakespeare and Moliere. He outlined its growth of Thamizh drama through V. C. Gopalaratnam, - Krishnaswamy, who is a lawyer, said that he had also acted in plays presented by the Lawyers’ Association many years ago with him - Nawab Rajamanickam, to Y. G. Parthasarathy and his writer Pattu – who gave a clear definition to Thamizh drama - and others right up to the time of K. Balachandar and Cho, which he termed the golden period of Thamizh drama. He felt the current crop of dramatists should include some relevance and substance to their plays, and not just write one line stories for their one-liners.
This was followed by the presentation of ‘Natta Kal’ by Indira Parthasarathy. A short play, it sought to present the theme of finding one’s god in oneself . The story of Poosalar of Thiruninravoor, for whose sake Lord Siva decided to forego the grand kumbabhishekham planned by the king, was presented by K.S. Nagarajan’s Kalanilayam. When the Lord appears to the king to tell him he has to be present at the kumbabhishekham of another temple built by Poosalar, the king decides to go there. And is surprised to find that Poosalar is a poor Brahmin whose temple is in his heart.
This theme was foretold in the prayer song - an M.L.Vasanthakumari classic from the film ‘Thai Ullam’, as Charukesi pointed out - by Sikkil Gurucharan. Another reason I was glad I went - Gurucharan sang divinely, and looked good, too!
As we came away, I could not but help think - Mylapore is certainly the cultural hub of this city. So many sabhas, all situated in this area. Almost all the dramatists, actors, artistes, musicians and dancers, almost everyone has a base in the Mylapore area. Devan lived in Mylapore, and so do Gopulu, Kathadi Ramamurthi, Charukesi, Sikkil Gurucharan, and Cho and the late Sujata, the first two recipients of Devan Endowments….