Moving between stage and screen

Award-winning thespian Arun Lal speaks to TNIE about his recent tryst with the film Chavittu and his many experiments with theatre
Arun Lal
Arun Lal

For thespian Arun Lal, theatre is like air. He breathes it in, lives with it, and there is nothing that can replace its energy. Now, after winning two prestigious awards Best Choreography in the 52nd Kerala State Film Awards for the film, Chavittu (which won three awards in total), and the first-ever Avanavan Kadamba Award in memory of legendary thespian Kavalam Narayana Panicker he sits down with TNIE for a chat about everything from theatre to cinema. 

Chavittu was a revelation, he says. The film, written and directed by Shinos Rahman and Sajas Rahman, opened up a window showing the reality of theatre production. The movie is a satire, the contrast between reality and the intellectual speeches about theatre are shown with brutal honesty. It portrays the reality the extensive rehearsals, the last-minute execution of the play in a small town and the hour-long speeches by the so-called intellectuals just before the curtain rises something that grates on the viewer’s nerves.  

And Arun’s troupe, The Little Earth School of Theatre, where he is the art director, has played a huge role in the film. The members of the troupe acted in this realistic depiction of theatre life. He also played a major role in the movie as the director of the play within the film. And even contributed to the dialogues. 
For Arun, the awards are a recognition for the art of theatre, not just an individual accomplishment. “They reveal theatre has an active role in nurturing the cultural scene of Kerala society.”

“I see cinema and theatre as two art forms that have to exist parallelly. I consider the awards as a possibility, space and access to do more theatre performances in future,” he says. In light of recent controversies surrounding a dialogue from the movie Kaduva, Arun has something to add. “In the era of social media, we must deliver dialogues with political correctness. Art, be it cinema or theatre, is not passing on information, but delivering an experience to the spectators to enlighten their thoughts,” he adds.

The Movement
The choreography and rhythmic movements, especially those influenced by the Kalari, were a highlight of Chavittu. Arun’s theatre productions such as Chillara Samaram, Bolivian Stars, Klavar Rani, The Villanmar and many more also follow the theatrical movement style. 

With sparse usage of sets and costumes, the focus is on making performances more effective using the body language and the movement of the actors. And Arun reveals that for him, the inspiration came from Kavalam Narayana Panicker. 

“He created an individuality or movement in the Malayalam theatre scene. Though I was not able to become his disciple, his usage of music and rhythms in productions always inspired me. Chavittu’s major portions are choreographed using theatrical rhythmic movements,” he says.

Arun believes that the present-day theatre productions are purely approached as experimental works and The Little Earth School of Theatre does the same. “The theatre just like any other form requires immense creativity. It is not about delivering dialogues, but it involves many art forms, for example, music and dance. The plays are developed to convince village audiences as well as city spectators alike,” he says.

Rhythmic movements 
The choreography of Chavittu is influenced by Kalari. The focus was to make performances effective using the body language and the movement of the actors.

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