August 5, 2015
With more than 3000 stage programmes to his credit, Kovai KRS drama troupe’s K.S. Krishnan keeps the art form alive despite lack of proper support from the government. A veteran of more than five decades in stage, 75-year-old Krishnan does this for his own satisfaction. It was Krishnan who had introduced Kovai Sarala, and drama artiste and playwright Kovai Anuradha, to the world of entertainment. Later they moved to Chennai and established themselves in films.
Until 2006, Krishnan had been organising drama festivals in Coimbatore. Due to lack of patronage and proper sponsors, and due to competition from television, he had to give it up. Krishnan had spent most of his time writing, directing and producing stage plays.
The 1970s was the golden era for theatre. Those were the days when he used to stage atleast 12 new plays every year. There were particular audience for dramas and they used to repeatedly visit places where he stages plays. That was the craze those days. Krishnan used to stage plays at the basement of Shanmugha Theatre. His troupe had also performed in Delhi, Nagpur, Bhopal, and Kolkata, besides several sabhas in Chennai. He was conferred with Kalaimamani Award, the Nataka Kala Bharathi by Bharat Kalachar, Chennai, and the Nataka Rathna from Chennai Nataka Academy.
Krishnan was working as a waiter at a restaurant when he first staged an autobiographical play. Later, he started to write plays revolving around middle-class families. While working at the restaurant, he cleared his matriculation as a private candidate. But his mind was obsessed only with plays.
In the mid-60s, Coimbatore had 22 troupes and Krishnan made his maiden on-stage appearance acting in the dramas produced by the Coimbatore Cultural Association. Subsequently, he launched his own troupe in 1967. He began with Kovai Anuradha’s ‘Sambandhi Varugirar,’ a one-hour play. His acting received immense response.
Marudhachalam Chettiar, owner of Shanmugha Theatre, was impressed with his performance. It was due to the patronage of people like Velumani Ammal and C.G. Venkatramanan that Krishnan could survive on his stage plays. Each year there would be a drama competition and Krishnan would invariably win the MGR Rolling Trophy as the hero, script writer, director and also producer.
Chairman of the Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan, Coimbatore Kendra, B.K. Krishnaraj Vanavarayaar, said, “If there was no reaction in a person’s body after seeing his drama, then there is something seriously wrong with him.” Krishnan’s ‘Poramai,’ which had five Carnatic songs, was staged 330 times. His effort to make this into a movie failed but it was telecast on Doordarshan.
Dramas started to lose its sheen in Coimbatore as other forms of entertainment began to take over. Government was not all that interested in nurturing theatre. Years have passed and now, only a handful of troupes in Chennai, weathering many a storms, have survived, thanks to the support of local sabhas.