Adyar Siruvar Sangam
Adyar Siruvar Sangam, the Tamil drama troupe of children, was formed by Late Sri. Koothapiran to enact plays by children. I was a member of the erstwhile Adyar Siruvar Sangam. We called him Anna. Fittingly, he became Vanoli Anna very soon thereafter.
I had acted in the dramas of Adyar Siruvar Sangam till 1961, when I completed S.S.L.C. I was closely associated with Anna in my boyhood for about 6 or 7 years. He was a very lovable person, with whom we stayed in touch for the subsequent 53 years.
Vanoli Anna Sri Koothapiran’s voice that spellbound children and their parents too on A.I.R., is no longer heard. Behind what was heard on the A.I.R that endeared him to children, was his inborn humane qualities that had bound him to his chosen path of Tamil drama and Tamil children programmes, from when he completed SSLC.
Most of our Sangam Members were residents of Adyar and were trained by him. When I joined him, his name was N.V Natarajan, which he changed later. Anna had groomed us into a fine drama troupe.
I wish to share with the readers the unique experiences of our Sangam members with Anna. His dramas and our troupe became very popular in All India Radio. Anna got regular opportunities to write and enact Tamil dramas for children in the afternoon children’s programmes, ‘Siruvar Nigazhchi’ / ‘Muthu Kuvial’ on Saturdays and ‘Pappa Malar’ on Sundays.
He wrote the drama scripts carefully and neatly. The punctuations, pauses between dialogues, and the scenes were perfectly incorporated in them. The scripts made it easy to read and memorise (for stage plays).
Throughout his long career associated with children’s drama, Anna guided all participants in seriyana uchcharippu, pizhai illada pesudal etc., which were the basic lessons.
He would give us the scripts and allow us to read and present the dialogue. After observing our original dialogue presentation, he trained us well in expression, voice modulation, stage presentation, comedy, pathos, etc. His direction of children dramatists was cool and clear.
The stories were realistic and witty with morals for children and full of cultural and patriotic values. The scripts promoted the importance of friendship, respect for elders, generosity, unity, contentment, forbearance, need for hard work, dedication, discipline, and so on – everything good for children.
Anna taught us to be friendly with all other children who came to the Radio Station. There were boys and girls belonging to other troupes and children who came all by themselves to perform on the A.I.R. K.Jayashree, who became famous for singing ‘Bala Ramayanam’, was always with us and continues to be a friend of Adyar Siruvar Sangam members to date.
As we were very young, most of us from Adyar would assemble in his house at Arunachalapuram and he would take us all carefully with him. In the earlier years, Pappa Malar on Sundays was an early morning programme around 7 a.m. So, we had to assemble at his house many times before sunrise. While the destination was A.I.R Children's Theatre at Wallajah Road (Now the renovated Kalaivanar Arangam) or other venue, the mode of transport was different – at times by A.I.R. van, sometimes by State bus and on occasions by bicycle. The cycle rides in the night via the Quibble Island Cemetery were scary. With the oil lamps burning in our bicycles, Anna would ride along with us, telling loudly, “Naan irukhen, dhairiyama vangada ennode” and taking us along safely.
There was also the complimentary hot tiffin and coffee that he provided us at A.I.R canteen. I recall our radio dramas and serials, ‘Cycle Sankaran’, ‘Naalum Naalu Vidham’, ‘Kanmani Kannan’, ‘Chittukuruvi’ and ‘Surukkuppai’ which were very popular among children. The serial Surukkuppai ran for 3 months, July-August- September, 1961 and was aired again by A.I.R. on account of its popularity.
The annual Children's Day programme at Children's Theatre was another interesting event called ‘Navamanu Malai’. 9 different troupes from Chennai performed and the programme was aired live by All India Radio. Our drama, ‘Chinna Thambi’ was so popular that it was performed in two successive years on public demand.
We were busy every weekend. During the weekdays, there were rehearsals at Anna’s residence and recordings at A.I.R. I recall the names of our Adyar Siruvar Sangam members, who have been successful in their respective careers after passing out of Adyar Siruvar Sangam, which was mostly after completing S.S.L.C. Popular among them were: Sekhar Raghavan (Director, Rain Centre), N.V.Santhanam, Anna’s younger brother continuing to conduct children’s programmes, Sushila Ravindranath (renowned journalist) and Chithra (who acted as Head Mistress in the Tamil T.V. serial ‘Vani Rani’.)
In 2014 – myself, Chithra and N.V Santhanam attended the Children’s Day programme. I asked Anna for some old photos of Adyar Siruvar Sangam. He had searched and got a photo of 1961 and immediately called me on Dec.12 and asked me to collect the photo. Sadly, Anna passed away very soon.
On Children’s Day every year, we exchange messages in our Whatsapp group recalling Anna and the golden days.