A good laugh at Tamil fest

From the play Paravaigal (Birds). First row (bottom): Dhanaram s/o Tangamanni, second row: Rohiny Jaganathan (purple) and Aruna Govind (blue), third row: R P Darrshene (green) and Viji Siva (orange), last row: Jeyseelan Kalumuthu (standing, red).

SINGAPORE - Tamil theatre here now has its own festival.

Organised by home-grown Tamil theatre groups Athipathi International Theatre and Ivann Productions, Thisaivegam: Festival Of Tamil Dramas will run at the Goodman Arts Centre from Thursday to Sunday.

Says the organiser, Pugalenthii Ramakrishnan, who is the artistic director of Athipathi: "For Tamil dramas, the publicity is there, but audiences are dwindling. Currently, if you get 300 people for a three-day show, that's very good. I think that's very bad."

He is aiming for 1,000 people to attend the festival.

He adds: "I wanted to prove to people that, look, if you put in good quality, people will come. Singaporeans will come."

The festival, named after the Tamil word for "velocity", costs about $20,000 to put together. It is supported by the Tamil Representation Council and the Singapore Indian Development Association (Sinda).

A total of seven plays will be staged at the festival, most of them light-hearted comedies. The festival is themed around "Bantham", which means "bond" in Tamil.

Pugalenthii wrote two of the works, Bantham and Uthayasurian (Rising Sun). The first focuses on volunteerism in a husband-wife relationship, and the second on important values taught in schools, such as decision-making and social awareness.

After all, the school-going crowd is one of the festival's target audiences. So far, about 400 students from various schools will be going to see the shows. These students are a key part of the festival, Pugalenthii believes.

He says: "They will be the next generation who will appreciate Tamil drama and, in time to come, who knows? They will write better dramas than me."

One of the plays was created by students from ITE College East. Kaelvi Kuri (A Question Mark) tells the story of a man who wants to commit suicide, but pauses to think of all the bonds to community that have kept him alive.

There are also works which will be performed by pupils from Shuqun Primary School and Yishun Primary School - a mythological tale of Singapore's discovery and an IT comedy, respectively.

Most of the roughly 30 actors and seven directors are newcomers to the scene. Some have undergone training with Athipathi. Others, such as actors Boovanesh Rajendran, Aruna Govind and Dhanaram Tangamanni, have appeared on local television in drama series on the Vasantham channel.

Pugalenthii hopes to make this an annual festival and to invite more drama groups to participate in the future.

He says: "There is a lot of talent in Singapore, talent that can be groomed."

He adds of the festival's content: "There will be stories about bonding, nature and man, society and man, volunteerism, and many of the dramas are comedies, so people will be fully entertained.

"I made sure that the majority were light-hearted so that the message goes right across. And people will go back having had a good laugh and being really entertained, and they'll want to come back and watch the next one."

Book it:

Thisaivegam: Festival of Tamil Dramas

Where: Multi-purpose Hall, Goodman Arts Centre, 90 Goodman Road

When: Thursday to Sunday, various timings

Admission: $25 from etickets.sg (go to www.etickets.sg or call 9220-3666). Tickets are also available at the door. E-mail athipathi.theatre@gmail.com

Info: www.facebook.com/ Athipathi.Theatre

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