PCR has been an indispensable part of The Madras Players, the oldest English amateur theatre company in India. Over the years, he has played many roles in its productions with distinction.
Gowri Ramnarayan introduces PC Ramakrishna who is about to read from Kalki Krishnamurthy his life and times, her translation od Sunda’s Ponniyin Pudalvar.
“Sunda” (MRM Sundaram), shaped Ponniyin Pudalvar, a mammoth biography of Kalki Krishnamurthy because he thoroughly enjoyed the iconic penman’s writings, admired his creativity, respected his in-depth thinking, and relished his inimitable style.
I have been translating Sunda’s biography for the past eight months – thoroughly enjoying his writing, admiring his creativity in assembling factual material, relishing the distinct style he has crafted for this imposing task. Sunda’s biography is not the story of a single individual. It is an amazing chronicle of the socio-political, historical, reformist, artistic, and literary movements of the twentieth century. It has been a privilege for me to translate this masterpiece.
Now, may I introduce the man who is going to read an excerpt from my translation.
It gives me great pleasure to introduce PC Ramakrishna as my friend and colleague in the theatre world.
Yes, he is familiar to all of you I’m sure, as the “Voice of Madras”. His impeccable diction unfailingly gripping your attention whether as the narrator’s voice in corporate films and documentaries or as an actor on the stage. And, how can we forget the urbane newscaster in the early days of black and white television?
We also know how PCR has been an indispensable part of The Madras Players, the oldest English amateur theatre company in India. He has been playing many roles there from the time the company was confined to presenting only western plays – from Ibsen and Strindberg to Pinter and Thornton Wilder. Later, when Indian plays gained ground, we saw him in the plays of Girish Karnad and Vijay Tendulkar.
But in the last ten years, PCR has guided The Madras Players into new directions, into what we may call “Tamil channels”. He has consistently promoted and presented the dramatised works of modern Tamil writers, not forgetting pen women like Sivasankari and R Chudamani. He has also donned the director’s hat with great success, starting with Komal Swaminathan’s Thanneer Thanneer staged as Water. More recently, he has shaped and directed Trinity, a performance of Sita Ravi’s short stories about the three major composers of Carnatic music.
I have had the joy of collaborating with The Madras Players and directing PCR in my plays. One of them was Rural Fantasy, based on Kalki’s Kanaiyaazhiyin Kanavu. However, my unforgettable experience with PCR was when he played the lead role as the kingmaker politician in Land of the Free, my play based on Indira Parthasarathy’s novel Sutantira Bhumi. He did such an excellent job that the author, a formidable figure, who came to see the play quite forgave me for replacing his protagonist (a callow young man) with the seasoned politician played by PCR. In fact, he said he liked the change!
So, are you surprised that PCR was our unanimous choice for today’s reading? We want him, not only for his professional skills as a reader but as a rasika of modern Tamil writing.
May I end by remembering what the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda said to his English translator Alastair Reid. Neruda said, “Alastair! Alastair! Don’t just translate my poems! Improve them!”
Now I say to you, PC Ramakrishna, “Ram! Ram! I don’t have to ask you, I know you will make the translation sound better than it is! Thank you!”