Sreekumar was busy as the three-day national mime festival was coming to a close in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday. He – the director of Trivandrum Mimers – was the chief coordinator of the first such festival in Kerala. There was a lot to do before Cultural Minister AK Balan came for the closing ceremony of the festival. His mime play, Prithviraj Chauhan, was the last performance of the day.
Sreekumar – Advocate S Sreekumar – practices law but has never given up on his interest in mimes that began during his University days. “We were the first mime group in Kerala. We began in 1992; back then, it was called The Mimers Trivandrum. Our troupe came first for five years in a row at the national level. Mimes had come to Kerala only in 1989 when it was introduced in the University Inter Youth Festival. The art form grew through campuses. Ten years later, mimes were introduced in the Higher Secondary Youth Festival, too,” says Sreekumar.
An old photo of The Trivandrum Mimers; Sreekumar is third from right
Before ’89, there were some odd solo performances of mimes by those who went to the National School of Drama. Mime as a team performance came to Kerala much later. Even now, there are very few troupes that are active in the state, Sreekumar says. “They tend to split after the campus days are over.”
But Sreekumar kept his troupe going for 28 years, directing over 150 plays. He stopped acting 10 years ago because he couldn’t keep ‘his body in check’.
“To perform mime, you need to keep yourself fit. But I am a food lover and I couldn’t help it after a point,” he laughs. He kept directing plays and getting recognition, too. Some of his most popular mime plays include Cloning, which won an award at the Inter-University level in 2000-2001; We Two, We have One on population explosion in 2007; Football in 2014; and Tagore’s Raicharan during the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of the legendary writer.
Sreekumar (middle) on stage
It is not easy to present political themes in Kerala, Sreekumar points out. “One or the other political parties would take offence. It is not easy,” he says.
But in the other states, where mimes are more popular -- especially in West Bengal and North East India -- they are received quite well, Sreekumar adds. “Once we were in Assam’s Guwahati and there were some issues happening there, concerning the bodo people. There were curfews to be followed but we had to travel in the night and the police caught us. When they learnt we were artistes, we were treated with respect - they took us to the station and sent us off in a train to where we wanted to go,” he recalls.