Alaikkadal dance musical celebrates resilience and tradition of coastal fishermen

A dance-theatre production, rooted in the traditional coastal fishing communities of South India, is being staged in the city
A still from the show dance musical show Alaikkadal
A still from the show dance musical show Alaikkadal

BENGALURU: Alaikkadal is a dance musical that delves deep into the sea, with roots in a quaint fisherman’s community. Through its dance movements, it brings to life the simplicity and vibrancy of coastal communities. This dance-theatre production, set to be staged later this week in Bengaluru, narrates the stories of South India’s coastal fishing communities.

Fishing is a primary occupation for these communities, which rely heavily on the sea for their livelihoods. Their traditional method of fishing, Karavalai, is steeped in the traditions of Tamil Nadu and certain regions of Sri Lanka. “It is an ancient technique that requires immense physical strength and manual labour rather than technology.

The process involves three main resources: a boat, a net, and manpower. One part of the net is left on the shore while another is extended into the sea using a boat. Thirty to forty people, including men, women, and children, work together in unison to pull the net from the shore, reeling in their catch for a minimum of four to six hours,” explains Junafar, the show’s director.

There has been little documentation on the lifestyle of those who engage in Karavalai fishing. As an artiste from this fishing community, Junafar aims to highlight the life of his community and be its voice. “Despite the advent of modern machinery, they still adhere to the traditional method, which I find fascinating. The Karavalai fishing method predates modern technology and embodies a collective spirit that benefits and sustains the local community, coexists with nature, and prioritises environmental sustainability,” says the 24-year-old.

Junafar believes these community stories need to be told to be preserved. “In the aftermath of the 1964 cyclone disaster, the government deemed the area unsuitable for human habitation. However, the people of Dhanushkodi, where the Karavalai fishing community hails from, continue their sea life. Currently, over 150 to 200 families reside in this area, devoid of electricity, hospital facilities, and secondary school amenities. Fishing remains not only their primary source of livelihood but is also a testament to their resilience in the face of adversity,” he shares.

Junafar hopes to travel to various coastal places through this production. The show is also crowdfunding the project, the proceeds of which will go to these communities.

(Alaikkadal will be staged on June 28 and 29, at Medai, Koramangala, and Courtyard Koota, Kengeri, respectively)

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