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November 2, 2010 > Theatre Review: Thanimai - A Tamil Play

Theatre Review: Thanimai - A Tamil Play

By Praveena Raman

Thanimai, a Tamil melodrama, comes to Ohlone after a successful tour in Houston and in Chennai, India. Written by Anand Raghav and directed by Dheepa Ramanujam this is its second staging in the Bay Area.

Founded in 2001, Krea, a Fremont based Indian Theatre Group, staged Thanimai for the first time in 2003 with two sold out shows. In 2009, Ramanujam was invited to present the play in the second Tamil drama festival in Houston. After a gap of six years, Thanimai was received extremely well. Encouraged by this success Ramanujam decided to take the play to India this past summer. Travelling out of the country had its own challenges. With no sponsorship, the cast and crew had to pay their own way to India. Also, not all of the local cast could make it and Thanimai went to India with three new actors. Ramanujam also mentions that she conducted auditions over the phone to cast people in Chennai for the smaller roles.

Fremont resident Jay Ganesh had just made his re-entry into the acting arena earlier this year after more than fifteen years. When he was offered a character role in Thanimai, he initially hesitated as he had primarily played comedy roles in the past. However as he worked through the script with Ramanujam and the Krea team he says, "I realized that the script blended humor to convey the message and after a few rehearsals I started getting comfortable with the role." He adds with his famous touch of humor, "How could I resist the opportunity to perform at seven locations in Chennai in front of leading actors and directors plus friends and family?"

The play had seven sold out shows in seven different theatres in Chennai and had rave reviews in leading newspapers and magazines like Hindu, Times of India and Kalki. Ramanujam mentions that the audience in India was also impressed by the fact that the cast included children who were fluently delivering their dialogues in Tamil.

Thanimai portrays the life of a lonely and disheartened old man Mani (Naveen Nathan). In his younger days, Mani, always surrounded by his family and friends, longed to be alone and have his own space. The solitude that he longed for as a young man comes to him later in life after his wife had passed on and his sons settled abroad. However, this solitude also brings him loneliness that he is unable to bear and he falls into a depression. At this time, he meets Sridhar (Jay Ganesh) who in spite of all the setbacks of his life, seems to live a life full of energy and vigor. Through his newfound companion, Mani learns that he needs to change his outlook to cope with the changing society. Mani becomes a new man, full of self-confidence and starts leading a new active life.

From 2001 to the present Ramanujam has staged nine plays under the auspices of Krea, six in Tamil and three in English. Krea's earlier plays had been presented in San Jose at the Center for Employment Training (CET) auditorium. During an interview with TCV in 2006 Ramanujam mentioned, "I would love to have these plays staged in Fremont but the small number of available theatre spaces and expensive rental fees make it difficult for us to stage it here. CET (500) in San Jose has a large capacity and is not too expensive. We can make ends meet if we stage them there even with a ticket cost of only $10." Ramanujam and Krea have come a long way since then and Thanimai will be the second Krea play to be staged at Ohlone.

Saturday, November 6
2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Jackson Theatre
Ohlone College
43600 Mission Blvd., Fremont
(510) 371-Krea

Tickets: $15

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