Suddenly my social life has perked up – I am in the swim again.
It started early this week with a visit from an e friend and her family, who were in town to do some shopping for a forthcoming wedding. A most delightful time – thank you, Kalyani. A young friend of my newspaper days dropped in the same day and made me promise I would go with her to a movie followed by dinner. The next day we went out to dinner with family friends - it was the lady's 60th birthday. Another lunch appointment on Saturday with the Gangamritham gals – and it becomes a busy week.
And midweek we went to see a play with the unusual title ‘Ranganathan Photo Studio' to which we had received an invitation from playwright-director Augusto. At the staging, at Narada Gana Sabha, theatre personalities like ARS, Kathadi Ramamurthi and T.V.Varadharajan were present. So was movie director S.P. Muthuraman(see photograph). The play was part of the summer festival competition of plays presented under the aegis of Kartik Fine Arts. Augusto has been a winner in many categories in previous festivals.
Augusto’s plays, which he writes and directs, are known for their thrills and chills, and unlike plays which are mere structures for the one-liners of the playwright, there is always a strong story. This was the case with this play, too. A young couple has been inveigled into killing the owner of a photo studio, who has the misfortune of crossing the path of a powerful ‘annachi’. This is the crux. The development of the story to this point and how it works out to a satisfactory denouement makes up the play. The very start is intriguing, with the scene opening on to a nervous young girl (excellent acting throughout by Soundarya) and a middle-aged, tall and powerful looking man in white dhoti and shirt (uniform of the local dada?) who is menacing, and threatening her.(Seen in photograph). A strong performance by K. Raja here, using the colloquial Thirunelveli accent of annachis. In a previous play ‘Unmai Sambhavam’ his portrayal of a police inspector was excellent, I remember.
The effect of an old photo studio was created by use of black and white stills, (provided by R. Saravanan of Malar Stills, who also took the pictures seen on this post) and old cameras. Lighting was used imaginatively to create the effect of a studio. Characterisation was crisp, and the artiste who portrayed Rangnathan looked the devotee he is to the hilt. The dialogue was to the point, and humour came by way of the studio owner’s friend, a retired X-ray technician, whose lines, including comparisons to his occupation to the art of the photographer, raised many laughs. A flashback technique onstage seemed unusual. The social message about caring for aged parents was woven into the plot without being obtrusive. The brisk dance of young Suraj was a light moment in an otherwise thriller play. It was, however, a tad too long - over two hours.
Augusto is an oculist, and his Augusto Opticals is well-known. Why Augusto, I once asked him. “Because I was born in August,” he said. His real name is Purushothaman.