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periyar 395Periyar’s presidential address in the drama written by Puratchi Kavignar Bharathidhasan and Kuthoosi Gurusamy acted as Hiranyan reveals his deep thought on dramas.

Periyar in his presidential deliverance,

“…It is inferred that plays are stolen by music and theatre arts were destroyed by music as musical legends were reining the stage. The scripts of drama predominantly relies on strengthening and safeguarding conservative propaganda of historical tales, superstitious beliefs, caste and class discrimination, women slavery, landlord systems instead of inculcating modern thoughts, new reformed ideas which is the need of the hour. These kinds of play should be annihilated. Those who have appetite for self-respect and reformation should not act in such plays.

Bravery, mastery of maneuvering, self-respect encompassed in Hiranyan story was a feast to rational thinking. But we can find upside down changes and hard words too. Change is inevitable in reformative dramas. The necessity of change and alternative answers to that change creates a new situation which can reform the old traditions. Else there won’t be any desirable change in the society. We should applause our comrade from Pondicherry, Bharathidasan who wrote this script. He has written this with full of emotions and many scripts should be written like this. The mentorship of comrade T.N. Natarajan from Tanjore who directed the drama should be honored. He is in the field of social service for nearly twenty years. He has been to jail too.

I award these two medals to these two persons on the behalf of Social Reform Drama Association. I thank all the comrades for gracing the occasion with your presence and cheering the performers.” (Pakutharivu weekly magazine, 16.9.1934)

articulated by Peiyar against old traditions. This is the first critics in the premiere of the play recorded in the history regarding the plays of Dravidian association.

After six months, ‘this play was staged with the support and presence of Minister P.T. Rajan for J.N. Ramanadhan’s memorial fund. It was held on 20.3.1935, Wednesday at 5.30 pm in Chennai Royal theatre and performed by the members of Chennai Social Reform Drama association. In this, S.Gurusamy, BA., (Kuthoosi Gurusamy) performed as Hiranyan, K.M. Balasubramaniam,BA.,BL. as Prahalathan; D. Sambandham as Gangadharan; S. Ranganathan as Senathipathy; T.N. Ramu as Gajakedhu; C.Thangaraj as Rishi; K.Krishnasamy as Leelavathi; M.S. Muthu as Chithrabanu.

They advertised that the cost of the ticket was rupees 1 and 2; 8 and 4 anas; half ticket for children below 14 years. The tickets were sold from 10 am on the day of play’. (Republic, Kudi Arasu, 03.03.1935)

The third event of Hiranyan play was held on July, 4 1936, in Ambalur dance hall near Vaniyambadi by Bharathi Congregation members after 1¼ years of second event. This play ‘Hiranyan or Unparalleled Warrior’ was presided by comrade E.V. Ramasamy and performed under the directorship of S.A. Arjunan.

Comrade E.V. Ramasamy had spoken on the topic ‘Our Development’ in the presence of Salem district board member and Thuvarapalli Zamindhar, comrade Krishnamoorthy in Ambalur dance hall. In this drama announcement, it was mentioned by S. Arjunan, Ambalur, 11.6.1936 that comrades W.P.A. Soundharapandiyan, C.T. Nayaham, V.V. Ramasamy, Ponambalam would come and tickets are available for dramas alone, but still, food will be arranged for people who come from outstation, and I solicit the presence of local people’. The advertisement for this play was found its place nearly three weeks consecutively, 14.6.1936, 21.6.1936, 28.6.1936 in Tamil weekly magazine Kudi Arasu.

Periyar’s speech at the end of the play held in Ambalur,

"After watching comrade Arjun’s courageous drama, even I wish to perform as Hiranyan. But I let go off this idea as I have beard. Plays should end within 2 hours. Songs in between the play disrupts the story and hinders the emotion. There are two types of play. One is performed only through songs; other one is performed by interacting with dialogues; people like to watch the plays performed with dialogues. One drama like this is enough to attract people and bring valor, sense and sensibility and changes in the minds of people instead of giving several speeches. Hiranyan play should have been like this before but Brahmins manipulated and used it in their favor. We should reform the old plays and it should be performed in a new way. Lots of reforms have to be undertaken in dramas.

These old dramas are fooling people and making them to stick to their meaningless policies. There is way to acquire knowledge through plays so playwrights must come forward to reform the plays with modern thoughts which would be useful to the people. Ideas and concepts are enough for a play and not the music and songs. This play was staged twice in Chennai and this is the third time. People with their common sense, will knock out their superstitious beliefs and meaningless traditions if plays like this are performed everywhere. I am praising this play which is performed under the leadership of comrade Arjunan.”

said Periyar. (Kudi Arasu 19.07.1936, Tamil weekly magazine, page.no.5)

The play which was staged only thrice, after its debut. This is the first phase of Dravidian movement’s theatre arts! These seeds were sown under leadership of comrade Periyar in 1934.

In this instance, article named ‘if dramas are to be useful for us..?’ penned by A. Rathna Sabapathy in page number 15 of Tamil weekly magazine Kudi Arasu on 25.08.1935 ought to be cited. This article spells out the need of dramas which can be used as a tool to promulgate the policies of the Dravidian movement. It does make sense to cite that article. It apprises like this;

“Whoever has started theatre arts with whatever thoughts and whatever may its current situation, we, reformists, should get hold of stages and use plays to express our ideology. Many of us have this opinion since a long time that this would end fruitful.

We cannot deny the fact that propaganda is inevitable in order to promulgate our ideals and policies among people. The ways to campaign includes speaking in mass meetings, distributing pamphlets, publishing magazines, plays, cinemas etc. out of all these; it is easy to spread our principles and ideals through plays and cinema. It is my opinion that, we did not take enough efforts to put it in practice though we understand it.

Let comrades forgive me for apparently saying this. We have to get hold of Tamil stages for popularizing our principles. I have told this several time in mass meetings and to individuals. I have written in magazines too.

All these efforts are not effective as expected in my perception because comrades are not coming forward to work in this section. Reformist organizations in some places like Kolar Gold Fields and Chennai pacify me. It further encourages me that our comrades have decided to start Social Reform Drama Associations in Nagapattinam and Trichy. I wish comrades in other places to start reformist drama associations like them.

Comrades should pay attention to two things in which we can succeed if we get hold of drama stages.

First one; in addition to staging reformist dramas, simultaneously we should condemn things which illogical to intellect in other plays that is happening in present. This will create a strong impression in the minds of educated people.

Second one; as we are staging plays with the concept of our ideals and principles, it will be easily grasped by common people. This will also tune the art of acting. There is no need to panic that our plays do not gain more support. This is the time of reformation. Whether we stage the play or not, world will consecutively move towards reforms and refinement.

The world will move soon and adapt in this direction and it’s completely ridiculous if we think that reign of Ramarajya will once again commence. So it’s evident that we will get good support for our plays in future even though we don’t have it now. If we work keeping this in mind, cinema world will come to us for sure. The cinema plays are already dumped with all mythical stories. It is pity that even saint Kulasekar will come in cinema plays and show his bones to the audience for counting.

Novels are transforming into cinema scenes as there was a call for new novels for making of cinema scenes. So let’s make hay while the sun shines by proliferating more reformist plays. And please do not make songs out of these plays too. An opinion has sprouted out that singing without even pausing for breath is also a play; this infectious disease is striking not only professional actors but also amateur actors. And we should not give scope for this disease. We must strive hard to make drama as mirror of life.

 I conclude with these thing comrades. Though we start many drama clubs in different places, we should have ‘one common social reformist drama association’. Through this we should attract people with our reformist plays. Best costumes and inevitable scenes etc., should be preferred for those plays. Those plays which succeed in this attempt can be directed as motion pictures. For this purpose, I would like to establish a central co-operative limited company.

It will be beneficent if we gather thousand shares worth rupees ten as capital money. I apprise the comrades in Tamil Nadu to look into this.”

It is noticed that this is structured as extended keynote address and work policy of Periyar who spoke in Hiranyan play.  

Many records of reformist plays that happened all over are seen in the Tamil weekly magazine Kudi Arasu. A self-respect play called ‘Balamani or Brahmin Widow’ was held on 27.01.1935, Sunday at 9.30 pm in Muthiyalpett near Pondicherry. It is mentioned that 300 people watched this drama and arrangements for this play were done by comrade S.K. Govindhasami, K. Nadesan, Arumugam respectively. (Kudi Arasu, 10.02.1935, page.no. 18).

“Comrade E.V. Ramasamy has kindly agreed to preside the play ‘Aanandha Krishnan or Beloved Lover’ on 01.05.1935, Wednesday at 10.30 pm in Karaikudi Shanmuha Vilas electric theatre.” (Kudi Arasu, 28.04.1935, page.no.15) In this event, he said in brief that plays like this should increase and common people should extend their hands to support these plays. Friends had gifted rings to performers. Following this, comrade S. Neelavathi, comrade A. Ponnambalam expressed their opinion and the play ended with delight at 3.30 am in the early morning with vote of thanks. (Kudi Arasu, 05.05.1935, page.no.5)

Similarly, on 23.06.1935, District Municipal S. Natraj Nadar BA, BL., presided a reformist play ‘Triumph of Love’ in Madurai Edward hall and it was organized for Madurai South gate Nadar Vidhyasalai construction fund by its reader’s member associations. (Kudi Arasu, 23.06.1935, page.no. 15).

Thus the Dravidian movement strongly carried its ideas to the masses through the art of drama. It later extended to cinema as well.

Written by Dr. V. Ramasamy

Translated by Maruvarthini P

(To read the first part of this article, please click - How Periyar’s Movement Revolutionized Theatre and Music)


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