“Naadaga Chinthanaigal” is a collection of twelve short essays and talks on Tamil drama written and delivered by T.K.Shanmugam at various fora.
The variety of topics covered in the book make for interesting reading. While it covers common aspects such as comedy in Tamil drama and the role of Tamil stage in the reformist movement, topics about which not much has been discussed elsewhere, such as art in Tamil drama and drama for children too find a place. The book, which is compiled and edited by T.K.Shanmugam’s long time associate Puthaneri R.Subramaniam, was first published in 1978 commemorating his 66th birth anniversary.
The book contains insights into some very interesting personalities connected with stage worthy of detailed profiling. In the chapter on Tamil Isai and drama, Shanmugam mentions the contribution of Madurai Mariappa Swamigal to the movement, long before it gained prominence in the 1940s. A fellow disciple of Sankaradas Swamigal, Mariappa Swamigal had a fairly successful film career too, as an actor, lyricist and a musician. He also narrates an interesting incident concerning the first super star of Tamil stage, S.G.Kittappa whose singing skills had even accomplished musicians in awe. In 1931, Kittappa was performing the play “Nandanar” in Kumbakonam in the same theatre in which T.K.Shanmugam’s drama troupe was camping. In the audience was the noted Harikatha exponent Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar, for whom a special seating arrangement had been made on stage due to the tightly packed hall. Hearing Kittappa sing, T.K.Shanmugam says that Muthiah Bhagavathar remarked loudly that it was the good fortune of his profession that Kittappa did not take to singing, for he would have been a star even as a musician!
The article on art and theatre, which originally came out in the first anniversary commemoration souvenir of the Madras Artists Association talks of the amazing contribution of the various artists who captured the imagination of the public through their exquisite paintings on the sets and curtains. T.K.Shanmugam writes that the legendary C.Cunniah had the famous artist Hussain Baksh of Lahore come down and draw the sets for his Krishna Leela and Ramayana plays. He also talks of his troupe’s association with K.Madhavan, who would later go on to become of Tamil Nadu’s best known artists.
In the chapter on theatre and the rasikas, T.K.Shanmugam says that appreciation too is required to be developed as an art. He talks of the various disturbances faced by the artistes (many a time in crucial moments of a play) due to lack of etiquette on part of the audience, something that performers even today experience. He urges the rasikas to be generous with their response, as it is the biggest motivator for an artiste to better his performance every time and lead to the development of the art.
In all, the book is an interesting read into various aspects of Tamil drama as seen through the eyes of one its foremost exponents.