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Narrating the power of Tamil folk poetry through songs, dance

During the 90s, Tamil folk singers Anita and Pushpavanam Kuppusamy started promoting folk songs through audio cassettes. The songs were simple and profound and brought out the imagery of Tamil culture beautifully through simple words.

Narrating the power of Tamil folk poetry through songs, dance
Ramaa Bharadvaj


There was a lot of humour in those songs. While listening to the songs, dancer Ramaa Bharadvaj chanced upon a category of songs in Tamil folk poetry called tarkka paattu. This Tamil witty folk song piqued curiosity in her and she started researching about it. Ramaa decided to popularise this genre of literature and has come up with a one-woman act titled ‘Tarkka Paattu’ that she will be presenting at Kalakshetra Foundation on December 23.  

“Purely based on wit and humour, tarkka paattu involves the exchange of clever repartees between two witty characters. I am using it as a catalyst to highlight the literary value of folk songs and poetry. So in ‘Tarkka Paattu’, I am simply telling the ‘story’ of Tamil poetry and its potency, through songs, dance expressions, theatre and humour and it was birthed organically from all the things I love. I will also be presenting the multiple anchoring roots that tarkka paattu have provided to many classic Tamil literary works,” says Ramaa.  

The presentation is in both English and Tamil with the intent of making it accessible to both Tamil-natives and non-Tamilians. When Ramaa started doing research about tarkka paattu, she came across many interesting trivia. “There is a huge influence of folk poetry in our classic literature, including Bhakti poetry, Silapathikaram and poems written by Kambar. I will be weaving a lot of things so that people can admire how much wisdom and simplicity Tamil folk poetry has,” shares the dancer-storyteller.

The co-creator of the Naada Bindu Festival, an international Performing Arts Festival, Ramaa believes that all performing artistes are essentially storytellers, and how effectively they connect with the audience depends on how effectively they can tell a story through a chosen medium. “An effective story has two energy cells — what and how. The ‘what’ part is about what the story is going to be told and the ‘how’ part deals with how you are going to make this story effective,” remarks Ramaa.

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