Feature Article

Reformulating Kooththu theatre for Eezham Tamils

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 12 April 2011, 06:53 GMT]
Contemporary humans alienated from their own environment by an education system are isolated even within their families by the electronic media. Reformulating the Kooththu theatre of Eezham Tamils is not to show it to somebody else or to carry it to somewhere else, but to effectively make the owners of the form of art to gather and enjoy it for themselves in the open air. The reformulation aims at reinstating the Kooththu theatre as a social institution, by giving importance to its inherent features such as participation, social function and memory; by bringing in traditional values to contemporary discourse and by providing space for the grassroot performers to perform in their own environment, says S. Jeyasankar of the Eastern University, Batticaloa, in his new book in Tamil on “Reformulating Kooththu: New Dimensions of the Kooththu of Eezham.”

The variety of names in Tamil heritage for dance and theatre, coming from Dravidian etymology alone, is quite amazing. Note the following terms cited in Dravidian Etymological Dictionary:

Akavu (DED 10), Aaddam (DED 347), Aalu (DED 386), Iyangku (DED 469), Ka’li, Ka’lippu (DED 1374), Kazhai (DED 1370), Kummi (DED 1756); Koppi (DED 2108), Kuravai (DED 2108), Kunippu (DED 1863), Kooththu (DED 1890), Kontha’lam (DED 2099), Koalam (DED 2240), Chaakkai (DED 2432), Chinthu (DED 2530), Thazhu (DED 3116), Thaa’ndavam (DED 3158), Thu’l’lal (DED 3364), Thoongku (DED 3539), Nadam, Naddam, Nadam-aaddam (DED 3582), Navil (DED 3616), No’ndi (DED 3786), Ve’ri (DED 5511) etc

They come from simple roots such as Adi (feet), Aal (move), Akavu (dance like a peacock), Iyangku (function), Ka’li (ecstasy), Kazhai (stilts), Kummu/ Koppu (clap), Kural (voice), Kuni (bend), Kuthi (jump), Konthu (mask), Koal (stick), Thaazh (cymbals), Thaa’ndu (leap, hop), Thu’l’lu (jump, spring, frisk), Thoongku (sway), Nada (walk, happen, perform), Navil (say), No’ndu (limp, use of stilts), Ve’ri (frenzy) etc.

Kooththu today means a folk theatre in which a particular style of dance is coupled with drama and storytelling. Kooththu, in its styles and themes associated with the heritage of Eezham Tamils, still survives in the villages of the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka. Some villages are specialised in its performance.

Jeyasankar is not merely an academic, but a performer of Kooththu himself. His academic researches belong to a new genre of participatory nature, aimed at not bringing the form of art as a museum piece performed by elite artists to urban viewers, but reviving, reformulating and re-invigorating the theatre among its owners, for their benefit. In the last more than one decade he successfully did it in some of the villages in Batticaloa.

The present book in Tamil is a collection of eight articles on his views and experiments on the Kooththu of Eezham Tamils, dealing with topics on native modernism, reformulation and new dimensions of Kooththu, children’s Kooththu theatre, Kooththu as a national theatre of Eezham Tamils, the challenges faced, postmodernism and Eezham Tamil theatre, Information Age and the theatre of Eezham Tamils, and Kooththu in the diaspora.

Professor I. Muththaiya of the Department of Folklore, Madurai Kamarajar University, has written a forward to the book, which was published last week in Madurai, Tamil Nadu.

The book is enlightening in grasping the fact that rather than from approaches of colonial mindset – whether internal or external - revival or reformulation of any art has to come from the people concerned if it is going to be of any meaning to them and of any meaning to the form of art itself.

The publishers could be contacted at +91 9842265884


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