(Last Updated on : 19-06-2012)
Komal Swaminathan was a Tamil dramatist whose Tannir Tannir i.e. 'Water!' in 1980 brought him into the limelight. It is said that there cannot be anyone in Tamil Nadu unfamiliar with the play or its movie version in 1981. This was directed by K. Balachander. He was born in Komal in Thanjavur district in 1935. Swaminathan came to Madras in 1957 with the aim of becoming a dramatist 'like Bernard Shaw'. He joined the school run by S. V. Sahasranamam and learnt the art of playwriting and stage techniques. He became a member of Sahasranamam's Seva Stage and wrote the political Putiyapatai or 'New Path' in 1960 for them.
From 1963, Komal Swaminathan worked as assistant director and scriptwriter for film director K. S. Gopala Krishnan. He was always conscious of a social commitment. In 1971, he formed Stage Friends with a team of like-minded enthusiasts and performed agitprop theatre under that banner all over India until his death. Out of his thirty-three plays, fifteen had over 100 shows. 'Tannir Tannir' under his direction staged more than 250. It presented people's growing disillusionment with government policies of development, which only served the interests of the urban elite. Twelve of his plays were cinematized. Of these, he himself directed Ynddha kandam i.e. 'War Canto', Anal Karru i.e. 'Wind of Fire', and Oru Indiya Kanavn i.e. 'An Indian Dream'. All of them were made in 1983. The last of them was a reformist political thriller, which won awards.
Swaminathan's editorship of Subhamangala magazine fetched him great popularity and he found it a fulfilling experience. The magazine had an uncompromising aesthetic appeal. He also engaged Tamil intellectuals by initiating debates on Dalits' problems, feminism, and environmentalism. He was instrumental in holding annual theatre festivals for four years. It provided scope to present many styles of theatre on the same platform. These festivals were accompanied by seminars that became the heated battleground for many issues in Tamil theatre. He professed himself a Marxist and served in Marxist cultural organizations. Left parties in Tamil Nadu took his dramas to unorthodox venues in interior villages. On occasions, over 7000 people watched his plays. Komal Swaminathan died in 1995.