Krishnakumar: Theatre is often mistaken for being a stepping stone to films
The actor talks about about working with Suriya and Sudha Kongara in Soorarai Pottru, his theatre career and hospital clowning
When Krishnakumar was in Class 6, he watched a play that fetched one of the actors a standing ovation. That kindled acting interest in his young mind. More than a decade later now, a film in which he has acted, Soorarai Pottru, has fetched him similar appreciation—so much so that he is now referred to as ‘Che’, the name of his character from SP. He is full of praise for director Sudha Kongara. “Every period has a filmmaker, who changes how the industry looks at cinema. Sudha Kongara is that person.” He says he knew the film would reach people the way it has. “The team is amazing,” he says, and adds that he considers all the love that has come his way to be a gift. “I was very surprised and am truly grateful.”
This isn’t Krishnakumar’s first tryst with cinema—he did Kadhalagi in 2010, and a short film with Ritesh Batra in 2018. But the gap between film projects was not intentional. “I don't really have a plan, be it films or theatre. The idea is to continue performing, no matter the medium.” But he admits that his significant experience in theatre prepared him for SP. “In theatre, the objective is to reach the last person in the audience. But with cinema, as we have closeups, you can be subtle. If we understand these minor differences, you can use what you have learnt in theatre and vice-versa.”
Krishnakumar also juggles several other roles in which he puts to use his skills. One of them is using art to teach and educate children through Little Theatre, in which he heads the theatre module. “We use music, theatre and all forms of art for this. When we teach kids, we should spark creativity in them. However, we are training children to merely occupy employment positions. This is a British system that hasn't evolved after the industrial revolution,” he says, underlining the need for change. “A wholesome student needs to be in check with his emotions and needs a tool to be happy. That is what the arts are.”
Another role is being a hospital clown, in which he performs for patients to enhance their overall wellness. Krishnakumar calls clowning a complex art, one that needs training and investment. “We call it improv in theatre, and this is a specific skill set. They are your most difficult audience. They aren't there to be entertained.” But he says that nothing feels better than putting a smile on their faces. “No money can give you that satisfaction,” he adds.
Krishnakumar notes that cinema was always his destination, but that it changed during his journey. “Theatre is often mistaken for being a stepping stone to films, but it is so important and can be of use to society. There is an inherent value to each form and art, and one needs to understand and respect it. Theatre has uses and reach in places that cinema can't reach. That's also why art keeps evolving,” he signs off.