MAYILADUTHURAI: A few 'Koothu' folk artistes are once again earning a living by dressing up, performing on roads and sensitising lockdown violators. The folk artistes are requesting more opportunities to perform so they can make a living during the lockdown.
"BEHOLD, HUMAN, I am Coronavirus, and I am here to infect you! FEAR ME, MORTAL, I, Lord Yama, swinging my lasso at you! DEAR SON, we, Lord Shiva and Sage Agastya advise you to go home!" These were the scenes lockdown violators witnessed in and around Mayiladuthurai. Those saying the dialogues are a group of 'Koothu' folk artistes working with local officials. "It has been a good experience and very satisfying to perform and sensitise people out on the roads. It was also a chance for us to earn something. It would be good if more of us could join and earn some money as well," said 28-year-old K Barani Kumar, who dressed up as 'Coronavirus'.
This is the first time in two months they are earning. J King Faizal (45), who plays Lord Shiva, said, "The opportunity is hard-earned. We approached the taluk office and requested an opportunity to perform for them as we have lost our livelihoods, ironically, due to the same coronavirus lockdown. The officials were a bit hesitant, but they generously gave us a chance. We are now making an impact. All we wish is thousands of us should get such opportunities across the district and State,"
TNIE published on March 27 a report about the importance of summer to lakhs of folk artistes, who include instrument players (Vidwans) and 'Koothu' artistes in Tamil Nadu. Sensitisation opportunities are available to just the 'Koothu' artistes, for now. "I run a bicycle puncture shop. People hardly ride bicycles these days. Koothu was what provided an income to us. We can advise people on roads, rather than dealing with them harshly," said 58-year-old C Manoharan, who plays Sage Agastya.
"Performing as divine figures are not easy. We have to apply makeup for an hour and carry costumes that weigh several kilos. We respect the characters we are portraying. We avoid wearing slippers while playing divine figures and stand under the sun for hours. People rarely realise our pain, but we would be happy if they just get the message." said M Thanabal, a 73-year-old who plays Lord Yama.
Mayiladuthurai police station Inspector K Singaravelu was all praise for the group of artistes. He said, "The folk artistes are performing spectacularly and relevantly. We hope they get more such opportunities."