Where is Therukoothu now?
Therukoothu (Street play) is an ethnic folk art of India. It has been a dying art because of the emergence of other entertainments. This folk talent is performed mostly on temple festivals in the villages of Tamilnadu. The artists hail from poor families and they do not know any other work except this folk dance. Usually, they travel as a troupe of dancers, actors, musicians, stage-decorators, make-up men, and cook. These people always move from one village to another. Sometimes a whole family is involved in this art.
Street Play artists were treated with great respect for their talent and artistry before a century. The village elders used to invite them for entertaining village people. Through their performance, the illiterate people learned about the history, culture of Tamilnadu. But, today the trend has changed. The artists were totally forgotten and most of the temple festivals are celebrated with music orchestras and cinematic dances. Their livelihood turned piteous.
Kinds of Koothu
Photo by sanpar32
But, the Northern districts of Tamilnadu still conduct Therukoothu in the months of Aadi, Panguni Tamil months. The “Koothu” is categorized as Nattu Koothu, Samaya Koothu, Porkala Koothu. Nattu Koothu portrays Valli Koothu, Kuravai Koothu, Samaya Koothu focuses on religious topics, whereas Porkala Koothu involves martial events.
On a traditional theater, “Sabai” Therukoothu is performed. The Sabai is Sixteen feet in length and fourteen feet in width. In the past centuries, there was no loudspeaker, so the singers sang in a loud voice. This musical play conveyed the story in the form of dance and song where there was only rare dialogue. The conventional harmonious instrument such as Thaala vadyam, Harmonium, Mugaveena, Kanjira, and Mrudangam were used in the Koothu. Nowadays, the band uses latest audio equipment for sounding on a rental basis.
The performers used to wear large, voluminous and bright color dresses. The dresses are decorated with designs, beads and artificial ornaments. All performers appeared with a heavy, dazzling make-up. The entire troupe will have only men where female characters are portrayed by the male.
The time, play of Koothu
Photo by Cuno de Boer
Every year, in the Tamil month of Aani, Therukoothu is performed at the Draupadi Amman Temple and the story of the drama has been mostly from epics such as Ramayana, Mahabharata, Nallathangal, Madurai veeran and Harichandra. The dance, songs, music, story, dialogue are delivered orally and not scribbled down in the papers. This is a special feature of the Koothu artists. Generally, the Koothu starts at 10 PM and continues until dawn. There is no entrance fee to see the Koothu. Chairs are provided only for village dignitaries and not for the ordinary people. The public can sit in any stance to watch the show. As the performances would be interesting, the audiences enjoy without watching the time. After the show completion, audiences on their own willing may give voluntary donations to the artists.
Who is Viduksha?
“Kattiyakaaran” is the man who enters the stage first and leaves last. He comes as a servant, messenger. He is traditionally licentious and makes people laugh at his idiocy. This personality is almost a “Viduksha”.
Nowadays, Therukoothu is performed by the students and activists to create social awareness. This act is purely based on the society’s welfare.
Some NGOs and Institutions are attempting to safeguard Therukoothu from its total destruction. Koothu artistes themselves took initiatives to shield their art form. Some of the dedicated Therukoothu institutions are:
- “The Tamil Nadu Kattaikoothu Kalai Valarchi Munnetra Sangam”, NGO established in 1990 by the Koothu artistes
- The Indian Institute of Traditional Sciences in Kerala
- Therukoothu.org is an organization where the art form is promoted and new performers are trained
- Purasai Kannappa Tambiran Parambarai Therukoothu Mandram
“It is the time to save our ancient art form “Therukoothu”. We shall invite the Koothu performers for the functions instead of artificial and modern plays. Join the hands to re-develop such brilliant artists.”
Photo by Vinc3nt