Authors - P. Rajagopal, Evelien Pullens, Hanne M.de Bruin
Photographs - Marinde Hurenkamp and Hanne M.de Bruin
Age group - 8+ years
Publisher - Tulika
Pic Source : Tulika Books
India has a very rich folk theatre tradition. Bhavai (Strolling Players) is a folk theatre form of Gujarat, while Jatra has been popular in Bengal. Yakshagana a popular theatre art in Karnataka involves music and songs based on carnatic music, rich costumes, and story line based on Mahabharat/Ramayana.
For showcasing the Indian folk theatre, today I have picked a wonderful book on the "Kattai kuttu" (pronounced as Koothu) theatre tradition of Tamilnadu. Kattai Kuttu is one of the many forms of "Koothu" and named so because of the heavy wooden ornaments that the performers wear. This book is very interesting because we get to read two stories actually !
One is the script of the actual play - "The Magic Horse" which has been produced and directed by P.Rajagopal. The original play - Maya Kudirai in Tamil, has been translated into English by Bruin and has been perfomed the world over by the troupe. The children of the Kattikuttu Sangam (founded by Rajagopal and his wife Hanne M de Bruin, in Kanchipuram) act in this play. It is a contemporary play which all the children can understand and relate to. The play has a wonderful message for the children in the end. The subtle messages throughout, can be explained by the adults to the children. It has a lot of humorous elements too, like the funny language of the two aliens - Kadak Kadak and Modak Modak, which had my little ones in giggles as I read the story.
The other story in parallel is that of Aiyappan (a real charater) belonging to the theatre troupe. His daily routine including that of regular classes in the morning for Maths, Science and other subjects and evenings of theatre practice, give us a glimpse into a different kind of life. The interactions of the boy with his fellow theatre friends and his feelings have all been visualised creatively and beautifully by the authors Bruin and Pullens.
The stunning photographs of the play as well as the real life characters, have effectively managed to convey the intense moments and emotions. They complement the written words so well. It is indeed a gem a of a book that has been brought out thanks to a great colloboration between the publisher Tulika and the Kattaikuttu Sangam. For more information on this theatre form, do check out the website of the theatre group.
Note : On Saturday (Oct 23) I attended the performance "Subhadra Kalyanam" of the "All girls troupe" of the Kattikuttu Sangam at Rangashankara theatre in Bangalore. It was fantastic ! The energy and confidence of the teenage girls as they twirled, danced in their heavy costumes and in the same breath delivered their dialogues, was astounding. I am so glad that this book has made me aware of this theatre form and taken me on the path of appreciating it.