Surabhi is an itinerant nomadic community dedicated to theater. For them, life
is an extension of the stage. They have been entrancing rural audiences with
mythological plays garnished with stage effects.
Surabhi - The Stage explores the identity of one family, that of Sri Venkateshwara
Natya Mandali. The family consists of 52 members whose age ranges from seven
months to 77 years. Each one of them is born on the stage and is dedicated to
The film traces the history of Surabhi through Nageswara Rao, their stage-leader,
who becomes a 'Sutradhar' in the tradition of Sanskrit dramaturgy. The recent
modernisation of their theater under the influence of B V Karanth of Rangaana,
Mysore, a noted theater personality in India, is examined as the artists try
to compare pre-Karanth and post-Karanth Surabhi, through dialogue delivery,
music and sets. The repertoire adapted Bertoldt Brecht's play "The Good
Person of Schezwan" to Indian conditions, and set a new trend.
As they try to come out of the popular notion that Surabhis can only excel
in stage-effects, their mentor Garimella Sri Rama Murthy hints at their travails
as the camera captures their lifestyle and poverty.
True to the saying, a true artist shares only his happiness and not his woes.
We find in the documentary the Surabhi family engrossed in its art, wholly unconcerned
about its standard of living. The film concludes with a subtle observation on
TV weaning their children, and questioning if this is the end...
Screenplay, Direction: K N T Sastry
Cinematography: M V Raghu
Music: The Surabhi family