The comeback of therukoothu for a contemporary setting

Traditionally based on the epic tales of Mahabharata and Ramayana, the Tamil theatre form of therukoothu dates back several decades. Focusing on the stories of the characters like Draupadi, the art form was once performed at temple festivals across the state.
The comeback of therukoothu for a contemporary setting
During a performance based on therukoothu

Chennai

Full of emotions like happiness, anger and vengeance, it served as a medium for social message apart from being an entertainment mode among rural communities. With the gradual disappearance of the art form over the years, Chennai-based Theatre Akku has been striving to keep it alive.

Through its play named Adavu, the theatre group is portraying the life of therukoothu artistes and their struggle for sustenance. The play’s director Vetri MV shares how it came to form. “We at Theatre Akku were looking to create theatre based on traditional art forms when we stumbled upon therukoothu. We wanted to showcase the struggles of the art’s performers. The art form is so powerful that its elements are also seen in European theatre,” Vetri tells DT Next.

The character of a clown, which is very integral to therukoothu, is pivotal to European theatre scene, where several schools specialise in clown acts, he adds. The play Adavu, meaning a dance step in Tamil, assumes a Meta view of the art form — while depicting therukoothu, it also delves into the real lives of those practising it.

“The art form is a passion as well as profession for many artistes but they are not receiving much visibility with the current day’s modern theatre remaining in the fore. This is one of the few art forms that can bring out multiple emotions in those performing and viewing, as well as send across multiple messages,” laments Vetri, who has been working on theatre for the past five years. As part of Puducherry-based Indianostrum Theatre group, the 30-year-old says he trained in therukoothu.

It will, however, take few more years for Chennai’s audience to fully embrace back the traditional theatre form, despite his ongoing efforts to reintroduce the art form, he says. “Achieving a connection with the audience in Chennai is relatively harder than in other parts of the state,” admits Vetri, who also works in the Tamil film industry.

Adavu will be performed on April 27 from 7 pm to 8 pm at Buck’s Amphitheatre in YMCA College of Physical Education at Nandanam

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