The colours of koothu in the city
By Janane Venkatraman | Published: 03rd December 2012 10:03 AM |
The hero is clad in bright yellows and blues and his face is painted in fiery red, in a manner reminiscent of Kathakali dancers. He tells us the story of Indrajit, son of Ravana, who fought a losing battle at Lanka. The story is simple but the performers on stage put up an evocative show that captures the interest of everyone watching.
He sings, speaks, and brandishes his mace furiously to make a point. He dissolves into laughter and the music rises to a brilliant crescendo as he narrates his own death. The audience laughs and cries with him. Storytelling has never been better.
The Koothu Festival, jointly organised by the National School of Drama (NSD), New Delhi, and the Department of Museums, Government of Tamil Nadu, has all this and more. Born out of an annual workshop for the students of NSD, this year’s Therukoothu workshop has a koothu staged by prominent therukoothu groups everyday for five days, culminating in a performance of ‘Macbeth’ later this month by the students.
“Therukoothu is not just a form of theatre. It is something that is bound with people’s emotions, values and attitudes towards life,” says M Shanmuga Raja, the workshop co-ordinator, who also inaugurated the festival.
The first day’s show, ‘Indrajit’, was performed by the ‘Purusai Duraisami Kannappa Thambiran Parambarai Therukoothu Mandram’, a seasoned troupe that has performed in several places in India and abroad. Sunday also saw the Kalari Heritage and Charitable Trust perform ‘Aravaan Kalapadi’. Shows lined up for the next three days are similarly inspired by Mahabharata and the Ramayana.
The passion expressed by the performers draws you in, in such a way that you are pushed to the edge of your seat, waiting for the fevered conclusion to the koothu. “The Koothu is an expression of a reality as felt and experienced by a people,” says the brochure that is handed out at the venue. You cannot help but be swayed by this powerful storytelling format.
If you’re someone for whom a drama means sedate acting on a stage with lights, sets and mics, the vibrant colours and loud music that stand out during a therukoothu might help you revise that notion.
The Koothu Festival will have shows on the Egmore museum campus, 6.30 pm onwards till December 5.