Theatre enthusiast brings Tamil epic to life

Engineer Dhinesh Selvaraj, 25, plays the villain Marappa in Vikraman, which is based on the Tamil classic Parthiban Kanavu.
Engineer Dhinesh Selvaraj, 25, plays the villain Marappa in Vikraman, which is based on the Tamil classic Parthiban Kanavu.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Most Tamil theatre productions here are staged by companies with funding and resources at their disposal, but finance executive Vijayalaksmi Kannan is doing things her own way.

The 24-year-old, who is directing the upcoming play Vikraman, says: "I was hell-bent on not doing this show under the banner of any company. I believe anyone can do theatre as long as he has passion for the art."

The production did not receive any arts grants, so she stumped up about $6,000 of her savings to cover production costs.

She cites the staging of Othello in 2013 by a group of independent Tamil theatre practitioners as an example of how an independent production can be done successfully. "I didn't want to feel constrained. When you work for a company, it's hard to maintain your own vision," she adds, speaking to The Straits Times in between rehearsals.

The play, which is her directorial debut, will be staged at the Goodman Arts Centre's Black Box theatre on Friday and Saturday.

It is a passion project. She spent about three months adapting the Tamil classic Parthiban Kanavu, one of her favourite books, into a play. The cast tailored their own costumes and took time out of their schedules to rehearse.

  • BOOK IT / VIKRAMAN

  • WHERE: Black Box theatre, Goodman Arts Centre, 90 Goodman Road

    WHEN: Friday and Saturday, 7pm

    ADMISSION: $20, e-mail vikraman.production@ gmail.com or call 9106-7169

"As someone who loves the book, every scene is important to me, so it was tough deciding what to filter. We also used a lot of old Tamil words, which were new to the actors," she says.

Written by the Indian novelist Kalki Krishnamurthy, Parthiban Kanavu is a work of historical fiction set in 14th-century India, when King Parthiban, the ruler of the Chola, attempts to secede from the powerful Pallava empire.

Shortly before he is slain in war, a mysterious monk tells the king that his son Vikraman will fulfil his dream. But the matter is complicated when Vikraman falls in love with his enemy's daughter, Princess Kundhavi.

"It's about patriotism and having a sense of belonging to a place. That and love, revenge and drama, which make a great story," Kannan says.

She assembled a cast of about 10, mostly friends she made during her acting days - she was an actress and production manager with Tamil theatre company AK Theatre - and when she took part in beauty pageants.

Most of them are amateurs, but one actress, secretary Mahalakshmi Velayutham, 27, has appeared on Vasantham dramas such as Vettai 3.0 and Ennuyire.

She says: "It's totally different from television acting. The language that's spoken, the way the character is portrayed."

Engineer Balaji Srinivasan, 28, who plays the titular character, says: "Even though it's her first time, Vijaya has good views on how to portray a scene. I'm proud to do this kind of epic play."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2016, with the headline 'Theatre enthusiast brings Tamil epic to life'. Print Edition | Subscribe