From The Hindu.
A reliable prop for the KPAC
– Special Correspondent
There may be several instances of a singer or instrumental music player becoming a music director or an extra actor becoming the hero or heroine of a play. But a harmonium player becoming a standby music director, actor and even director is rare in the annals of world theatre.
And the honour of occupying that position goes to none other than KPAC Johnson, who has been selected for the Thoppil Bhasi Pratibha Puraskaram of the Thiruvananthapuram-based Thoppil Bhasi Nataka Patana Kendram. The KPAC, a well-known professional drama troupe of yesteryear which was revived recently, and Thoppil Bhasi, who made it immortal by writing and directing many of its unforgettable plays, do not require any introduction to even the new generation. Johnson made his entry into the world of drama as a harmonium player in Ningal Enne Communistakki, perhaps, the most celebrated KPAC play which was later made into a film.
The present practice of recording background music in tape or CD and playing it while the drama is enacted did not exist in those days. Instead the instrumental music players had to sit behind the curtains and play the background score arranged by the music director. They had to play it again and again for each show. It was the harmonium player who coordinated the orchestra.
When Johnson did it for months and years together, not only the music but every other aspect of the plays, such as the characters, their dialogue and even the nuances of Thoppil Bhasi’s direction, got etched in his mind. That equipped him to play any role, except that of female characters, in any play of the KPAC.
This versatility came in handy to the troupe during emergencies. If any actor failed to turn up for a show, Johnson used to standby for him. There are few roles which Johnson has not played. They include that of the land owner Kesavan Nair and Chathan in Ningal Enne Communistakki, Dr. Thomas and the leprosy patient in Ashvamedham, Rajan, Karumban and Sastrikal in Mudiyanaya Puthran, Asanarupilla in Mooladhanam and senior engineer in Puthiya Akasam Puthiya Bhoomi. The list is unending.
It was to Johnson that the KPAC turned again for help in providing the Bhasian directorial touches during Thoppil Bhasi’s absence and after his demise and even while presenting plays other than that of the master playwright-cum- director. He was a tower of strength to the troupe in the fresh presentation of its classic plays. Such was his knowledge of the world of theatre. It is such a person that the Thoppil Bhasi Nataka Patana Kendram is honouring probably much belatedly for his overall contributions to the Malayalam theatre. The award, which includes a citation, will be presented to him at a function being held in connection with the 18th death anniversary of Thoppil Bhasi on January 24.
He has played the roles of musician, actor and director for the famous theatre group. Recognition comes to him belatedly.