Come elections, these folk artistes, who otherwise lead a ‘destitute life’, would have a field day as they become much sought after to lead poll campaigns with their fanfare for candidates from all political parties. Several of them admit they pocket a years’ worth of earning during the run-up to the elections, which goes for about two months.
There are more than 500 artistes with expertise in folks arts like Thappattam, Karakattam and Poikal Kuthirai in the district. Among them are about 20 groups with each comprising 12 active members.
Though these groups stay busy for six months a year thanks to public functions, the remaining half of the year leaves them with little business, prompting several of them to find work in farms or take up other jobs. Some Thappattam artistes count their blessings if any funeral ceremonies come along when their performance is required.
“Normally, we ask for `700-800 and sometimes the amount is increased to `1000 per performance during campaigns. One performance goes on for three to four hours on end,” says S Selvam, who runs A1 Thappu troupe in the city. Selvam said the troupe members otherwise lead a poor life and prefer to work as daily wage coolies just to earn their daily bread.
“However, during the election season, we would get orders for performance every day and are given food apart from the remuneration. We just perform at the venues prior to the candidate’s arrival so that the attention of the public is drawn. We assemble at least by 9 am and play till 1.30 pm and leave the place after lunch arranged for by the party workers concerned,” Selvam said.
“Election season is the only hay-time for artistes like us and sometimes we can even earn the entire year’s worth money during the election campaign time,” says Vellaichamy, who runs Karakattam and Poikal Kuthirai troupe.
Vellaichamy said his troupe has been booked both by the AIADMK and the DMK parties. The troupe has been flexing their performance muscles on campaign venues with the AIADMK poll campaign already going full swing, he added.
“We have received orders for performances till the last date of election campaigns and sometimes we are also invited by the supporters of the winning candidates,” Vellaichamy said.