Saturday, May 31, 2008

Activate Rural Theatre

Indian theatre recently is getting more and more concentrated in urban areas and cities. Earlier theatre in Kerala was more vibrant and flourished in the villages and small towns and it continued to be so till the 1990’s. The village theatre was very rustic, crude and yet meaningful. But now almost all the significant theatre activities are focusing the cities. It is high time that sensible and continuous theatre activity should happen in villages. Strengthening and empowering village theatre will enrich and enhance Indian theatre in its quality, content, form and aesthetically too.
It is a relief to see that there are a few places where villages have started doing workshops, and related activities. Children’s theatre can be a good activity to initiate, but ample care and comprehension is needed in designing and sustaining it.
I visited one such village, Thampakamukku, almost 10 kilometers from Alapuzha town. A few theatre enthusiasts and cultural activists have joined together to initiate some kind of theatre activity since two years. In this midsummer vacation too they organized manchadikoottam - a 20 day workshop with 25 children in the age group 4 to 15. The children played, improvised, danced, acted, wrote and did many activities connected with theatre. They performed the visualization of three poems, one each by Kumaran Asan, Ayyappa Panikkar, and Kavalam Narayana Panikkar. They also performed a play Vachumattam written by Kavalam and directed by T.V.Sambasivan.
It was good to see that the workshop along with theatre and art, attempted to connect the children to the environment and the mindless mayhem exercised on it. Agriculture was also given the same importance along with cultural awareness. This link to environment, trees, lakes, and agriculture will generate a green mind in the young children.
The organizers were Nrupalaya, instituted for Traditional Art theatre that conducts regular shows of traditional performances like Theyyam, Koodiyattam, Kadhakali, and Mudiyettu etc. They had build a stage, and an open theatre that can seat about 300 audiences, a protected hall for rehearsals and make up, and also a library. This group functions on the enthusiasm of few individuals like Aaryadu Vasudevan and Kichu Aaryadu; but the larger society has to shoulder it and see that the activities continue. Proper caring of such rural activities, and providing the needed orientation and support is the responsibility of cultural organizations such as Sangeet Natak academy and other state machineries.
Hope that this place will emerge as a true centre for theatre with good productions, performances, theatre festivals etc and will contribute largely to the theatre of the area and the state. We have great examples like Ninasam that has grown from rural background to nationally acclaimed theatre institutions.

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