Madras Players’ latest production, based in Chennai, is a satire aimed at the literary world

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The latest production from Madras Players, a sharp satire in the form of love letters shamelessly attacks the literary world, armed with humour.

The latest production from Madras Players, a sharp satire in the form of love letters shamelessly attacks the literary world, armed with humour.

Letters have always paved the way for good stories. But what are we likely to find in the exchange of letters between two writers, an amateur and a veteran? A two-piece finds out.

Madras Players latest production, directed by Nikhila Kesavan and produced in collaboration with Chennai Art Theatre, is titled Dear Omana: Notes on How to Be a Literary Sensation is a satire told for the stage.

Adapted from the epistolary play by writer and columnist Krishna Shastri Devulapalli and parts of his novel How to be a literary sensation, the piece, says Nikhila, remains faithful to the work of the first. Although Nikhila knows her chronicles and novels, it was a modest suggestion from a Facebook friend who connected the two amidst lockdown in 2020.

This is also how Nkhila was introduced to Dear Anita and How to be a literary sensation. Reading the two, a few excerpts from the book seemed to fit perfectly into the piece, and Nikhila reached out to the author for a green flag.

“I rewrote the play to take the excerpts into account and I shared it with him, and he liked what I had done,” says the director. The original plan was to do it during lockdown. “But when you do something funny, you want to hear the audience laugh. Online is so one-sided. So we decided to wait,” she adds.

The play is a sharp satire based on the works of Krishna Shastri Devulapalli

The play is a sharp satire based on the works of Krishna Shastri Devulapalli

“The dynamic of the play is different from how it was written earlier, but it’s still in the form of love letters. It’s very interactive between the two characters,” says Nikhila. Omana and Krishna Shastri Devulapalli are the protagonists – “The whole play follows how Krishna seeks guidance and mentorship from Omana to survive and navigate the literary world”, says Nikhila.

In the play, Nikhila plays Omana, while the author is played by V Sarvesh Sridhar.

For Nikhila, undertaking a satire of this kind was a first. “It was a challenge, probably more because I decided to play one of the characters. I think once we started it just flowed. We went with the script. Although both characters “ technically read letters,” Nikhila promises the scene wouldn’t be devoid of action. The key is to perform the letters and not just read them, Nikhila says.

Much of the inspiration comes from the script, adds Nikhila. For example, one of the book’s essays explains how writing is all about math. “The moment I chose the essay, automatically the design for it emerged. We immediately thought of staging the way a writer makes calculations. Although the musical interludes are part of the narrative, the choreography is something to look forward to.

The play shamelessly attacks writers, editors, publishers, translators and other players in the literary world, armed with humor. Words simply do the job, concludes Nikhila.

Dear Omana: Notes on how to be Literary Sensation will be performed on June 18 at 7:15 p.m. and June 19 at 4:15 p.m. and 7:15 p.m., at the Alliance française de Madras. Tickets on BookMyShow.

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