Sunday, August 8, 2010

RVR Autobio-III -School Days

When I was in the 9th standard, my school moved to its own premises in Wadala which was a 30 to 40 minute walk from my house in Matunga. A group of us from the neighbourhood took a walk every day which enlarged my circle of friends. It was at this stage that I became close to Jayaraman, a bright student who always came first in my class. I became a part of the group of bright students bursting with a lot of creative energy! It was a multitalented group that wanted to participate in extra curricular activities such as singing, staging plays etc. But we had a problem. The school was being run by a group of Palghat Brahmins with Mrs. Saraswathi as the Principal. She was a Malayalee spinster who ran the school like a dictator. I remember her telling the students “Don’t waste your time on cinemas and dramas. Education is the only thing which will give you a good career!” So she banned all extra curricular activities except the mandatory sports activities.

My group began to feel frustrated and helpless. Some of us joined the Bombay Tamil Sangam which was encouraging students with talent in writing, debating, acting etc. I think the seed of converting a challenge into an opportunity was sown in my mind at this time. I mooted the idea of starting a Students Cultural Association through which we could express our creative talents. Others immediately agreed. Thus was born the “Manavar Kalai Arangam” with the motto ‘To encourage ourselves’ and I became the Founder Secretary. We had JNS Murthy from a junior class as President. Though JNS, at that point did not have any creative interests, we made him the President because he came from a business family and he could help us in raising funds for our programmes. Another friend Raghavan, who had the physique of the famous Tamil comedian Nagesh was excellent in comedy roles. I always landed character roles – invariably the father of the hero in all the plays.

One of our earliest plays was a one act play titled ‘Pushpalatha’ written by Director K Balachander. At that time he had just got into directing plays. Raghavan and I went to Madras and got his permission to stage the play in Bombay. In another play, I donned the role of Munuswamy a thug with one Muniamma as my wife. For the role of Muniamma we had to get a female artist from Madras, as no Bombay girls agreed to act in our plays!

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