Director Dharini Komal to recreate the magic of 'Aachi' Manorama and veteran playwright Komal Swaminathan in En Veedu, En Kanavan play

En Veedu, En Kanavan, En Kuzhandhai was staged 300 times all over India and telecast on Doordarshan
Director Dharini Komal with the crew
Director Dharini Komal with the crew

There comes a lot of responsibility and pressure with recreating classic plays. More so, when the original work has been a masterpiece and performed by some of the finest artists. Bringing one such play En Veedu, En Kanavan, En Kuzhandhai — staged 300 times all over India and telecast on Doordarshan — is Dharini Komal of Komal Theatre. All in a gesture to commemorate the 50th-anniversary celebrations of her father and veteran playwright Komal Swaminathan’s drama troupe Stage Friends.

Officially screened for the first time in 1984, pairing ‘Aachi’ Manorama and Kambar Jayaraman, the two-hour drama continues to have a cult following. Recalling the response she received on social media, Dharini shares, “The minute I posted the news about recreating the play, people from different pockets of the globe shared dialogues, scenes and memorable anecdotes from the play. This was the only family subject directed by my father because Manorama insisted she wanted a women-oriented script of this kind. I’ve grown up watching this drama many times.”


The nostalgia factor

Reviving the classic came with many challenges for Dharini and the troupe. Actress Lavanya Venugopal, who has played several roles on Tamil stage, takes on the difficult challenge of reprising Manorama’s role as Annapurani (the protagonist). Striving to match the expectations, along with Lavanya are a group of actors from contemporary Tamil theatre, a mix of veterans and young faces.

Rehearsals for the play started in early July with the initial sessions being conducted virtually. With the easing of the lockdown norms, inperson rehearsals have been in full swing with safety protocols in place. “The original cast members are all old now. We’ve invited Kambar Jayaraman sir for the event to honour him. We’ve been rehearsing on Zoom for six weeks on modulation and dialect. I worked with every individual for six to seven hours over the phone and with Lavanya alone for three months. I even told the cast that if they forget the dialogue, the audience will help them because everybody knows the script by heart because of its wide reach,” beams Dharini.

A few scenes in the script were inspired by everyday scenes at Dharini’s household, she says. “I’ve grown up watching the play so many times that I break down in a few scenes. On her part, Manorama did complete justice to the character. She was so versatile that she’d change into multiple madisar effortlessly. She even learnt Kanakadhara Stotram and recited it like MS Subbulakshmi. Despite having a busy shooting schedule for films, she made time for plays and acted in many for passion. In this version too, we have factored in all these elements, right from the costume to the whole joint family set-up.”

Bringing back the magic

Reprising the role of one of the legendary actors in the world of Tamil cinema ain’t no easy task. Lavanya shares her experience and admiration for Manorama, “I’m blessed. As a stage artist, anybody would be eager to take up this role. From the word go till lights off, Manorama is there in every scene. Everything literally revolves around her. Her body language, expressions, modulations... she was a package. And, I see nothing wrong in emulating her from start till the end because she has excelled so much. For the last three months, I’ve been eating, breathing and sleeping as Annapurani.”

In her effort to perpetuate the memory of her father, Dharini revived Thanneer Thanneer around eight years back under the Stage Friends banner, with a few actors from the original play joining hands along with others from the contemporary Tamil stage. Hoping this too would be a fitting tribute, Dharini notes, “In a career spanning more than three decades, my father wrote 33 plays, of which 27 were performed by Stage Friends. Starting with comedy and family subjects, many of his plays dealt with larger issues of society and the common man’s struggle for his basic needs. I wanted to recreate seven to eight plays for the golden jubilee year but couldn’t because of the pandemic. En the first in a series of plays. Komal Theatre was launched three years ago to bring back to stage several of these plays and we will work towards it.”

The play will premiere on October 1 at Narada Gana Sabha Hall under the auspices of Kartik Fine Arts with subsequent shows at the same venue; on 2nd at Brahma Gana Sabha and Parthasarathy Swami Sabha; 3rd at Narada Gana Sabha and on October 17 at Vani Mahal.

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