|Therukoothu is a folk art dance originated from the Indian state, Tamil Nadu. More than being a traditional art, it has great social importance and religious importance relevant to village and agricultural life. It is one of the most entertainment forms of art. Therukoothu literally means “street party”.The three forms of ancient Tamil Nadu arts are Iyal (literature), Isai (music) and Nadagam (drama). All three forms have their roots in this ancient dance form. Spontaneous dialogue delivery and use of effective dance movements and music are the unique characteristics of Therukoothu.The word “Koothu” precisely refers to Therukoothu. Types of koothu includes Nattu Koothu, Kuravai Koothu, Valli Koothu, Samaya Koothu, Porkaala Koothu, Pei Koothu, Thunangai Koothu and Chakyar koothu.HISTORY
Therukoothu is performed mainly during the Tamil months Panguni and Aadi in the northern and the central districts of Tamil Nadu. It is performed based on the culture and practice of the area, where the dance is performed. The performer should be an all-rounder and he should have a loud voice to speak, so that his dialogues would be audible to the whole crowd, as there were no amplifiers in olden days.
The Indian musical instruments used include Harmonium, Mirudangam, Mugaveena, Kanjara and Thaalam.
Therukoothu is performed in open at the junction of four roads for attracting the gathering. It is performed especially during the functions for rain Goddess Mariamman and Draupathyamman in villages especially North Arcot, South Arcot and Thanjavur Districts.
Benches are arranged around for the performers to be seated. The dance starts during the night time and it lasts for few hours, mostly till early morning.
Costumes and make-up play a vital role in this dance form. As this dance is performed during night time, the dancers apply heavy make-up on their face and wear colorful costumes. The performance consists of story-telling, dialogue rendering, dancing and singing. As more importance is given to singing than the dialogue delivery, the performers gets well-trained in singing.
The performance usually starts with an orchestral over-tune followed by invocation songs addressed to various deities and finally to the guru. The themes are usually the epics of India, Mahabharatham and Ramayanam. Some popular shows in therukoothu include Draupathy Vastrabaranam (disclothing of Draupathy, wife of Pancha pandavas), Karna Moksham (defeat of Karna), Prahalada Charithram (story of Prahalada), Bagiratha Prayathanam (Bagiratha’s efforts to bring Ganges to the earth), and Kandavavana Thaganam. In recent days, social awareness programs are also being staged.
This dance was usually performed in open space formed in round shape by the crowd. The most attractive feature of therukoothu is the part played by Kattiyakkaran (the main actor) appearing on the stage along with the buffoon, introducing all the characters and narrating the story to the public.
Therukoothu is performed only by the male actors. Even the female characters are played by male actors disguising into female. The performers have excellent performing skills, such that the audiences become spellbound on their performances.
If the audiences are satisfied with the play, they can finally enter into the boundary of the performers and give them money as a token of appreciation.
Therukoothu is still popular among the rural people. The dance serves an important function in acting as a stress buster. People gather in a single place and they enjoy the dance forgetting all their problems for few hours, meeting psychological and social needs.
In early days, these artists were treated with high respect and they were invited by the village folk during festivals. But, they are mostly forgotten now and it has virtually become one of the dying arts. However, entrepreneurs are trying to refresh this dance form. The performances are being made on the stages according to the modern interests. As a further development, women are also performing this dance.
Some of the institutions engaged in performing Therukoothu are:
The Tamil Nadu Kattaikoothu Kalai Valarchi Munnetra Sangam – It is a NGO established in 1990 by rural Kattaikoothu actors and musicians. Kattaikoothu, the traditional theater is also popularly known as Therukoothu.
Therukoothu.org is an institution that is involved in promoting the therukoothu art. It gives training to the individuals and combines them with other groups and social organizations to implement this art world wide.
Thiraseela in Kerala
Thalaikkol Film Institute in Puducherry
The Kannappa Thambiran troupe
Indian Institute Of Traditional Sciences in Kerala
Purisai Kannappa Tambiran Paramparai Therukoothu Manram
The Centre for Research and Development (CRD) in Sree Saraswathi Thyagaraja College (STC) has conducted research program on the topic, “Eradication of Domestic violence against women through the art form of Therukoothu (Street Drama)” in 2011.
Therukoothu was considered as one of the endangered arts, but now it appears to attract more number of audiences, preserving its pristine.