Published: 22nd January 2020
How Hyderabad theatre veteran Dr Pejjai Nagaraju is getting students to 'play' nice
The courses that Hyderabad-based Dr Pejjai Nagaraju has taught include children's theatre, physical movement, modern theatre, scenography and technical theatre
At the very start of our conversation with this popular theatre director, who also works extensively with children, Dr Pejjai Nagaraju confesses that it is much easier to work with children than adults. "You see, it's a two-way street with children. They have an abundance of imagination which helps me grow as a teacher and a director. In fact, I have taken cues from them for exaggerated acting and passed it on to adults," laughs the jovial artist who is currently a full-time drama teacher at The Gaudium School in Hyderabad.
Fresh off the success of two popular plays — Badal Sircar’s Evam Indrajit (in Hindi) and Manoj Mitra’s Bancharam - Thotaku Prema Tho (in Telugu), performed by his students and produced by Rathna Sekhar Reddy, founder of the theatre group Samahaara — his next one is coming up on February 7, 8 and 9 at Phoenix Arena, Hyderabad.
Dr Nagaraju's grandfather P Govind Reddy was a popular Vedi Natakam (street theatre) performer and he reckons that theatre is in his genes. But did you know that this noted theatre director initially wanted to be a film director? "But once I signed up for a course in Theatre Studies at the University of Hyderabad, I fell in love," says the artist who now has a PhD and his thesis is titled Draupadi Thirunallu: A Study of Scenographic Elements in the Performances. Though he is dismayed by the fact that youngsters mostly treat theatre as a medium to learn and move on to movies, he is glad that in curricula like IB (International Board), theatre is a compulsory subject.
And what does he think will help attract youngsters to theatre? "More festivals and competitions! So that amateur groups can participate and compete," he asserts and adds "There are also teachers like Prof Aruna Bhikshu, Associate Professor at the University of Hyderabad, who recently combined elements from Telangana's folk form and integrated it in a modern play. These approaches could also help attract youth to the medium." The infrastructure in Hyderabad needs investment and development, though with the entry of Phoenix Arena and trusted venues like Lamakaan are a relief, he points out.
Sunkara Satyanarayana and Vasireddy Bhaskar Rao’s Maa Bhoomi | (Pic: Dr Pejjai Nagaraju)
The Sriharikota-born teacher aspires to be an Assistant Professor one day, he has already cleared the UGC-NET exam in Performing Arts - Theatre. In this way, he plans on sustaining himself while he continues to engage with what he loves most, theatre.
Noted personalities he has worked with:
- Prof N J Bhikshu: Department of Theatre Arts, University of Hyderabad and recipient of the Nandi Award
- Prof Satyabrata Rout: Department of Theatre Arts, University of Hyderabad and noted theatre director, scenographer and theatre academician
- Late S Ramanujan: He is known as the Bhishma of modern Tamil theatre