Bringing back a tradition

Bringing back a tradition

from here & there

Town crier Mike Chandru announcing the staging of a drama in Mysuru.

Days are gone when children used to surround a bullock cart or cycle that announced the screening of a drama in their town or village. Theatre troupes have also adopted modern communication tools to attract the young audience. As a result, these scenes can be seen only in the old movies now. But in Mysuru, one can see a traditional town crier passing on information to the public in a horse cart, even today. He presents himself in different attires, dressing like a politician, drama artiste or as a wrestler. His face is very familiar to all the city residents. Whenever there is a tent drama, election, wresting or social campaigns, he takes the message to the doorstep of people.

Meet Mike Chandru, 69, a commerce graduate. He boasts himself as the only person in the entire state dependent solely on a mike to eke out a living. Chandru started off with publicity work in drama troupes. ‘Mike’ became his initial later and gave him a unique identity. A conversation with him for a few minutes gives one a wider perspective of contemporary theatre. He has worked closely with the popular drama troupes of the yesteryears as well. “Then we used to tie a dabba (tin container) to the cycle pedals and it used to make a sound as the cycle moved. On the other hand, we used to stick drama posters on the cycle. Soon after listening to the sound, people used to come out. This sound itself used to communicate the message that there is a screening of play or a movie in the city,’’ he recollects. Chandru has taken this as a career and has been doing this for the past 45 years.

He presents a unique combo to attract the new-age audience too. While he dresses up as an actor to publicise dramas, he turns out to be a wrestler while announcing wrestling competitions. He ensures that the use of language matches the occasion. Election campaigns pose a challenge for Chandru as he has to publicise for different parties. “For elections, I read newspapers extensively and prepare a script that grabs people’s attention. I also wear a Gandhi cap symbolically,” he says.