Shemej Kumar, a professional engineer working in the Kuwait Oil Company, has been associated with theatre activity since he settled down in Kuwait. With a vivid imagination and brilliant story-telling technique, he has written scripts, directed plays and won many accolades for his efforts.
Recently in March this year, he received the best director award in the amateur drama competition conducted by Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi, under the cultural ministry of Kerala State, in the whole Middle East for his play “Ushna Mekahalayile Pen Kutti”(girl in hot spot). He has also received the best director award and the best play award for the play “Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Beckett and “Kallan Kayariya veedu” by Omchery N.N. Pillai. This theatre director is making a big splash, and can be considered as one of the rising stars of the theatre community in Kuwait.
What do you love about directing plays?
It gives me freedom to express my ideas and views. Theater is a real imaginative world where there is no end to your dreams. It’s much more powerful than films in some context. Symbols and suggestions have an impact and meaning, so I love theatre.
In stage plays, the director is just a guide. He gives instructions and teaches the actors and designs the set, light and music. During the play, the actors are the emperors, and they have to deliver live on stage. In fact, drama is similar to real life...It has blood and flesh, feelings and emotions. I am concerned with all aspects of drama. During casting, I always judge the character and actors; scrutinize their mental state, body language and reflexes. Usually, I let the actors enjoy the character; it is easier for me to squeeze out the best in them.
Name your first short film that became famous?
My first telefilm was “Punarjjani” in 2010 and it was completely shot in Kuwait. Punarjjani talks about the love between a mother and son who lives apart. But the love between them is beautiful as it is diverted towards nature. She lovingly looks after the jack fruit tree as her own son and sends him the fruit. I have received the best screen play award for this 30 minute movie from Association of Television artists) in Trivandrum, Kerala. My second best film was 6 minutes long and talked about child abuse and misusage of technology. This film got a special appreciation from a jury during a short film competition held in Kuwait in 2013.
What is your creative process for scripts?
I used to create plays with my own stories and scripts. Sometimes, I adopted stories from famous novels or poems. The KSNA award winning drama was my own concept, and I have written scripts on famous Malayalam novel and poetry. “Baalya Kaala Sakhi”(childhood friend), the novel by Vaikom Muhammad Basheer was made into a stage play and presented in a program for the Kuwait Engineers Forum. “Raman” another famous poem in Malayalam by Vyloppilli Sreedhara Menon was made into a musical drama with the help of mohiniyattam dance form. Transforming the famous works into a play is a strenuous task. There are a lot of limitations and blocks when scripting, and interpretation is important. I also use scripts from the texts and interpret in my own way. Reading between the lines is the skill of a good director.
In your career, can you tell me your proudest achievement?
My proudest achievement is the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi best director award. The competition was open in all gulf countries except UAE and Saudi Arabia. I am so happy to win such a prestigious award for Kuwait and I thank everyone who helped to successfully execute the drama. I am so thankful to Future eye theatre Kuwait for giving me the wonderful opportunity to succeed. I have also received best direction awards and best play awards from associations in Kuwait such as Kerala Association, Kala Kuwait, Engineers association etc.
What has been your experience like as the Vice President of Future Eye Theater in Kuwait?
Future Eye Theatre Kuwait is a small group of like- minded people interested in performing. We have conducted various experimental theater plays. We did a solo drama “Kooanan” (the hunchback) by Mr. Manjulan, which has crossed more than 1500 stages now. Future Eye Theater always encourages experimentation and creativity in stage plays.
About the Kerala State Govt. award you received, tell me about your entry?
There were total 5 plays from Kuwait and all together there were 17 plays from all the Gulf countries. My play “Ushana Mekhalayile Pen Kutti”( girl in the hot spot) dealt with a social issue happening mainly in the North Malabar area of Kerala. Girls from poor families are being married into families in Mysore and they receive ill treatment. In my drama, I used a way of suggestive realism to create the atmosphere by manipulating elements of the set, the lighting and the music. I am a self taught director and it gave me immense pleasure when I was recognized by eminent judges like Mr. T.M. Abraham, Dr. P.V.Krishnan Nair and Mr. Meenambalam Santhosh.
What was the experience like to attend the event and receive recognition?
The KSNA award was presented in a prestigious award ceremony attended by the Kerala Governor Smt. Sheila Dixit , Cultural Minister Dr. K.C. Joseph, Veteran actor Sri. Madhu and several dignitaries. There were total 94 awardees from Kerala and Keralites working in other states. It was a golden opportunity to exchange the experience and communicate with eminent personalities in the same field of music, dance and theatre.
Which is your favorite theme to work with?
I think every artist is passing through lot of dramatic moment and social issues that affect their creative works. For me, also social issues are my main influence. I would like to analyze more of human life and potential in addition to study nature.
What advice would you give for upcoming directors or scriptwriters?
I am not in a position to give advice to anyone. I consider myself a student, but my suggestion for those interested in being directors is to continuously experiment. Be ready to taste defeat, but never stop learning and observing your surroundings.
What are the requirements of a great play or script or film?
There is nothing like a set measure for a great play or film or script. Greatness comes when it is remembered throughout the ages. Each one has its own place. You cannot replace one with the other. Every medium has its own potential.
What are your plans for the future?
Recently, I did a performance art show for the first time in Contemporary Art Platform (CAP) Kuwait under the direction of the Netherlands performance artist, Mr. MO Reda. Maybe there will be one more show in October in Performance art which is quite new and exciting in Kuwait. Presently, I am working on a play to be staged in December 2014 for the Kuwait Engineers Forum Silver Jubilee Celebration.