Sunday, October 24, 2010

Aiyappan and The Magic Horse

Title - Aiyappan and The Magic Horse
Authors - P. Rajagopal, Evelien Pullens, Hanne Bruin
Photographs - Marinde Hurenkamp and Hanne 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.


the mad momma said...

what fun. the books sounds lovely and now I am dying to see a real live performance

artnavy said...

Nice one and is it not wonderful that these traditions remain alive and are getting their due!

SoulSpace said...

che missed the show
and will try to get the book for sure

Choxbox said...

Had been to a performance by P.Rajagopal’s troupe at Kalakshetra one time. Found this book afterwards and totally loved it. Wonder if Aiyappan was there in the performance I saw!

There was also a Kattaikattu show in AHA! at Rangashankara last year. My children and their friends thoroughly enjoyed it. Hope there are more of them this year too.

Choxbox said...

And awesome pick and review R!

Meera Sriram said...

Amazing how such art forms are preserved and passed on. Excellent pick Ranjani!

Praba Ram said...

A very unique pick in Indian folktheatre and performing arts. Beautiful! I've always been curious about Tulika's Aiyappan. Will check it out for sure.

A great review with delicious details, Ranjani! Thanks! :)

Sheela said...

Awesome, Ranjani! What a great find - especailly in today's world where street theater and performing folk-arts are rarely patronized! And loved reading about "Kadak Kadak and Modak Modak" :)

sandhya said...

Great review, Ranjani. I have seen this book in stores, but not really picked it up. Will do so now.

Performances at Ranga Shankara- wonderful Will look out for them, R and Chox.

utbtkids said...

Echo Sheela's comments. Would love to check out a folk art performance.

Poppy said...

For a art challenged person like me, I'm sure learning a lot from all your reviews! Good going R.

Anusha said...

I am so glad to see such native art forms have not been lost or tampered with by modern influences. Thanks to publishers like Tulika and reviewers like you, who respect them, they will be preserved for our kids to enjoy. Especially love the backstage story of the performer, for few of us will ever get to see that view.

Kattaikkuttu Sangam said...

Thank you all for a great review and great comments. Those among you who would like to see a "life" performance can contact us at or visit us at the Kattaikkuttu Gurukulam at Punjarasantankal Village near Kanchipuram. For an update of upcoming performances, please subscribe to the Kattaikkuttu e-newsletter by sending an email to

On behalf of the Kattaikkuttu Sangam & Gurukulam: Transforming Culture / Transforming Lives
Hanne M. de Bruin-Rajagopal

ranjani.sathish said...

Hanne, thanks for dropping by and leaving your comment here ! The show was truly great and I was full of admiration for all the people involved.

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