and at the end... December of course! I don't want to stand on the Night of Dec 31 and write a Janus-faced post. That's too passé. So I jump the gun.
Of course I am sad that Michael Schumacher, Martina Navratilova, Andre Agassi all retired and Shane has Warned he would soon. But there are other things, on the more personal front that I am not so happy about! I just tried counting the amount of work I had put in Theatre as well as elsewhere. It shocks me to realise that I had done about 15 productions and events of various sorts in theatre in 2006 alone. It makes me happy, of course, to see that that involves a wide repertoire of what ranges from acting in other's production to figure in the scheme of other banners too! But 15??? That is worse than The Meaning of Life (which is 12 !!!)
So what am I proud of that I did in 2k6 that I would cherish in 2k7 and could possibly relish cherishing further than 2k7? Perhaps... Three@Twenty. When at a time other groups are thinking of figuring out what can be done to the future course of theatre in Chennai, I think we started doing something. It makes me happy to think that we were able to associate Masquerade (here I mean the folks who stood by Masquerade throughout the year, out of sheer conviction and commitment) with several new and first time playwrights. I am sure that spark of ignition would definitely make them look back and draw inspiration to write further works. Also, am glad that the year 2k6 was not solely a KK-walk at Masquerade, but others who took responsibilities in all walks of a production - through all the mainstream as well as Three@Twenty readings. And the planning is just about complete for 2k7.
I can tell you, it is going to be a very different year of presentations from Masquerade. If we don't end up redefining art or theatre in Chennai, we would be redefining ourselves. And I thank "small Medium @ Large" for that. It made us realise we are better off not doing those comedies. That I also feel is the current problem in theatre in Chennai. Every one seems to be convinced that comedy is the only way to go, if one wants to see better populated houses. Even when it is not one of thsoe western made to order box comedies, it still is a comic or light-hearted play. Why? I remember fondly Mitran's Anna Weiss and Bagyam's Senora Carrar among several other shows. Do we have to ham for our sausage and bread?
I wrote this little 600 word guest column in Simply Chennai recently. I had said some things that I accept are truths about the current trends in Chennai. But in retrospect, I realise why we are stagnating continually and are constantly unnecessarily soul-searching as to the Status Quo of Chennai Theatre. It is a syndrome that is part and parcel of contemporary liberalised India. Any thing that comes new to India... it takes a while to warm up. But once it catches up... it's like wild fire. No stopping, unless, having destroyed everything around itself, being left with itself, it consumes itself. Unfortunately, unlike the Phoenix, it never rises out of its own ashes. Take the case of Photocopying (or Xerox in familiar parlance), Electronic Data Processing, DTP, Colour Printouts, STD ISD PCOs, Pagers, Mobile phones... you see a saturation resulting from watering down of availability. I guess theatre is going through the same phase. By sheer unmoderated enthusiasm, we have watered down the quality of productions in Chennai. Every so-called actor as well as director is gotten greedy to perform, we have created a scenario of plentiness of performance that we hardly do what the classical musicians would call 'sadagam'. To quote Ranjani and Gayatri from their interview today in the Music Festival Supplement to The Hindu: Though we know the value of this festival, we are beginning to wonder if this kind of excess and performance orientation is the only way of preserving and nurturing our music. With so many concerts during the Season, how can any artiste do justice to every one of them? Similarly, if we perform so much, how can there be qualitative energy? I am surprised that even such a quality conscious person as Bala (for whose conceptions I have a high adoration!) has been too prolific in 2k6!
Also, I feel, instead of casting aspersions on the public's craving for entertainment as the public's craving for comedy on stage, if we start giving tighter and better narrative productions (that are not necessarily comedies), it would help us revision our audience for the years to come, vis-a-vis Theatre in Chennai. I am very convinced that all any entertainment-seeker wants is an entertainment that helps him/her forget the world he/she personally inhabits. The world on stage can be a familiar serious world, doesn't matter, but it has to be presented in such a manner without distracting the narration with unnecessary frills or comedy. So, for me, 2k7 is going to be all about evolving a definitive individual style of presentation and choice of scripts. Also to strive for tighter and well-honed productions than hamming comedies or going for numbers.
On the personal side - 2k6 was productive in its own way. I added quite a few new chapters to my Book of Life - how to gauge people better, who to keep distances and how to keep distances, how to not be politically correct at the risk of losing people, places, work, etc. Well, it does help to be honest and open even if one is branded as being rude or disparaging or whatever. And I managed to post little of my fiction than I have written. Only those I thought are absolutely read for public consumption has gone into Web-publication here. And I have met some nice and decent people both on the web/blogosphere as well as real-time. Hope their acquaintances blossom into something more worthy.
To end the post on the same note as it began, I would be sad to see several people retire after the 2k7 Cricket World Cup. But then, when it's time to go, one just has to go. Better to get out before fading ignominiously into a murky sunset.