Off Stage

He played a poet when he was 10

Actor Veeraraghavan.
Actor Veeraraghavan.PHOTO: RAVINDRAN DRAMA GROUP

Actor Veeraraghavan had his first taste of the stage at age 10 and, since then, has taken on Tamil television and radio as well.

Now 44, he has done a range of roles across the mediums, at one point playing nine different characters in a single show. But he has a soft spot for comedy.

"Comedy roles make me feel lighter and give me a kind of inner gratification that I've made someone laugh and forget his troubles," he says.

Veeraraghavan, who is married to an administrator, will be in his element when he takes the stage in Cultural Medallion recipient P. Krishnan's side-splitting Adukku Veetu Annasamy 2.

The comedy, which captures life in 1960s Singapore, at a time when some kampung dwellers were resettled in Housing Board flats, was broadcast as a radio drama series in the 1960s and is being given a theatrical makeover by the Ravindran Drama Group.

  • BOOK IT / P. KRISHNAN'S ADUKKU VEETU ANNASAMY 2 BY RAVINDRAN DRAMA GROUP

  • WHERE: Esplanade Theatre Studio

    WHEN: Sept 23 to 25, 8pm (Friday and Saturday), 3pm (Saturday and Sunday)

    ADMISSION: $28 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

The Tamil theatre troupe presented the first instalment in the trilogy of plays last year and will stage the sequel at the Esplanade Theatre Studio from Sept 23 to 25.

How did you get into acting and what made you fall in love with it?

It started when the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation's Tamil radio station conducted an audition at the primary school I was in for roles in the classical play, Kumana Vallal.

It would be part of a children's variety show that was to be staged at the Victoria Theatre in the early 1980s. I was a 10-year-old at that time and gave the audition a try, and the rest is history.

I was selected to play the Tamil poet Seethalai Saathanaar. It was a challenging role as it required a good command of the language, which had to be delivered in a poetic form of dialogue, with precise pronunciation and diction.

It was then that I discovered the joy of performing in an imaginary world. The lights, stage, improvisation, jittery feelings, audience and applause - all these enticed me into embracing drama and acting.

What's your favourite part of Adukku Veetu Annasamy?

It is set in post-colonial Singapore and brings back memories of the 1960s and 1970s.

The 52-part radio drama series was a hit among listeners in the 1980s. I grew up listening to it. The stage adaptation of the radio drama gave us the opportunity to revisit our history and experience the changing landscape of Singapore.

The storyline, characters, witty dialogue, heartfelt moments, costumes and the set are my favourite parts. The laugh-a-minute satire has so many great moments that it's difficult to pick a favourite.

What is the strangest or most memorable thing that has happened to you on stage?

In the first instalment of Adukku Veetu Annasamy last year, just two hours before the sell-out show, one of the cast members fainted. We were in a dilemma.

The crowd was arriving and we didn't want to disappoint them. We decided to go ahead with the play, altering a few scenes to address the absence of the actor. Some last- minute changes were made to the dialogue. It took amazing team effort to pull through without compromising on the quality and, at the same time, doing justice to the original script.

Do you still have on-stage jitters? How do you get over them?

No matter how many years I have performed, I always get on-stage jitters. It stems from my desire to do the best in a play. The jitters make me more conscious of my posture and breathing. They always put me on my toes. Breathing exercises, saying some affirmations and prayers are some of the things I do to take control of myself.

Any favourite post-show spots?

Newton Circus is where we congregate after every performance.

Unwinding under the sky is a ritual I have been doing religiously after every performance.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2016, with the headline 'He played a poet when he was 10'. Print Edition | Subscribe