Colossus of Drama World

( Published in Indian Express of Nov 17, 1984 )   

 Dr. Chandrasekharam has entered his 81st year this November. Those who are less than his age, get a kick in their lazy backs when they see this dynamic old man still walk about with unyielding nerve and settled views on stage action,  quick-make-up, dialogue delivery,  intonation and facial expression.

     One is left wondering at his sagacity, which seems to increase with age. It is no exaggeration if we say that Chandrasekhararn is a century ahead of his times. This is one of the reasons for his contemporaries not being able to appreciate him in the manner in which they ought to.

     One who hears Chandrasekharam speak in English will have to believe the statement that Shakespeare knew little Latin and less Greek. That the great dramas of Shakespeare were written by a man who went only to a grammar school is a questionable thing to several people. But those who heard Chandrasekharam speak English with English intonation and those who read his works such as Nataka Gitanjali shall accept the fact that Chandrasekharam is only an SSLC of the pre-Independence days. Once again it is proved that a genius had his own expression irrespective of qualifications while the obverse need not be always true.

     The Simple Travelling Theatre was Chandrasekharam's original contribution to Indian drama. In the words of Normal Marshall. British producer and director of Shakespearean  plays Chandrasekharam was a new type of actor who could take up stage work as a service to the people and devotion to God. In a country like India he was the right kind of actor-director who was rich in creative thinking. The simple travelling theatre tells about staging one-act plays by going to the people in villages, towns and cities, in schools and colleges, in offices, factories and mining areas. A small band of talented, enthusiastic semi-professional actors and actresses improvise the stage with the material that was available in a place in a short time and entertain the people more as a service to humanity than as a money spinning proposition. Among those who enjoyed this unique man's art are the common men and women on one side, and people of high-rank on the other. The secret of the success of Chandrasekharam's art lies in the fact that it not only appeals to the physical senses of the on-lookers but it entertains the inner man in all of them. He made them enjoy not at the cost of others but at their own cost. Hence his satire, criticism and sarcasm tickle and do not wound.

         Dr. Charidrasekharam himself was a dynamic theatre. He had made name as a solo-actor of very high order. He gave his first performance in 1929 and since then he has been entertaining some thousands of audiences all over the country. He went to China in 1953 and to Russia in 1967. He was a real cultural ambassador of India.

     Make-up, which is supposed to be an assisting and subsidiary wing of drama, has been given an individual status and made into an independent art by Chandra­sekharam. His on-the-spot make-up of some prominent persons of India and other parts of the world is unsur­passed. One is left wondering at the fact that the same person with little alterations in his make-up can appear in minutes as Nehru, Gandhi, Tagore or Ramana Maha­rishi, on the same stage. It shows that Chandrasekharam possesses a keen sense of observation, adaptation, imagination and exposition, which is unparalleled.

     Chandrasekharam was of strong opinion that drama education should find a place in our curriculum. He had many schemes to suggest. In 1937 he started an institute of drama called Sri Sakuntala Drama Academy. He has collected a good library of rare books on drama and make-up. He has conducted several lectures, demonstrations and exhibitions in which he had highlighted the importance of drama and make-up. He has published a journal called Ranga  Jyothi over 15 years which was educative, cultural and entertaining value.

     To Dr. Chandrasekharam acting was a noble and pious way of life. If an actor is born it is not sufficient. He was like a crude diamond that warrants polishing. So Chandrasekharam feels that every born actor can become perfect only if he is properly trained. And for this, ideal drama schools should be run by competent people. Governments, local bodies, banks and businessmen should come forward with financial help. They should not provide funds with a sense of detachment and indiffe­rence as many of them are doing today, but they should involve themselves in it and feel that, as good citizens, they have the responsibility of making it a success.

     The stage should be instrumental in accomplishing them. Chandrasekharam dislikes the arrogance of riches and power and he was always sympathetic towards the suffering and the needy. He believed in the spiritual value of acting. According to him it was a sacred responsibility bestowed on the select few whose mission had been to propagate the message of God. He had written valuable books like Nataka Bhagavad Geeta, Natakopanishad, Nataka Gitanjali and Karma Yoga. He was no ordinary man who makes the stage a stooge and earns a living. To him it was an altar at which the incense of life’s experience had to be offered to the Almighty. Dr. Chandrasekharam is a Karma Yogi of the stage.

    Sathabhishekham of Chandrasekharam at Madras on October 28 ,1984 which was celebrated by his sons, daughters, daughters-in-law, sons-in-law, grandsons, granddaughters, great grandchildren, brother, nieces and nephews, his friends and well-wishers.