Thursday, August 23, 2007

Reformulation of Tamil Traditional Theatre

Reformulation of Tamil Traditional Theatre as an organic form of Community Theatre - 14th August 2007

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Kooththu, the Traditional Theatre of the Tamils of Sri Lanka, is an art form that integrates people in the process of its creation and performance. There are so many activities being practiced by the people during the period of Kooththu process, to identify this art as a community art

Basically , Kooththu is a people centered art form where they play, learn, teach, relax, share, love, debate, discuss, decide, create, etc. Kooththu is performed on the round stage and people sit around it during the performance time throughout the night. They can enjoy the play with total freedom. The process of Kooththu performance naturally contains the aspects of Community Theatre and it is easy for us to develop an organic form of Community Theatre based on Kooththu alternative to Global Culture imposed by the Multinational Forces, which alienate the people and turn them into mere consumers.

Reformulation is a process, where recreating or reconstructing things in a way to face the current nature of the world. The contemporary world is almost controlled by multinational forces and the process labeled as Globalization.

Globalization is the process whereby individual lives and local communities are affected by economic and cultural processes that operates world-wide. In effect it is the process of the world becoming a single place.

One important dimension of this global change is the dramatic increase in the consumption of goods manufactured, designed and/or marketed by firms based in Europe, North America and Japan. The dramatic global increase in the consumption of "northern" goods has been perceived, in many places, as the greatest threat to the continued existence of local traditions, local cultures and local economic autonomy.

In an oppressive and colonized system, the process of reformulation will function as a liberating and decolonizing one. Rediscovering of pre-colonial space or world of the colonized people and deconstructing its asymmetrical or hierarchical order in order to create a liberated and self sustained world of the people in the Globalaized World is the fundamental aspect of reformulation.

The reformulation of Kooththu is not a work of a specialist individual or an experiment in a laboratory in the modern sense and the reformulation of Kooththu is not only a form-oriented one, but also a content oriented one. It’s not only a change in an art form but also a change in the people who perform and celebrate it. The reformulations must be put forward with the participation of the people in their own location and the progress is experienced and evaluated by the participants. It’s a process of learning by doing.

The change in the minds of the people will lead to change in their activities. Plans, strategies and actions for the reformulation process must be created and designed for these purposes and the community and the facilitator must evaluate the process. The role of the facilitator is to implement these activities with the awareness and participation of the community. This must not be handled alone by the facilitator.

Even though the process of Kooththu is people centered, the oppressive nature of the hierarchy of caste and gender orientation must be contested in the reformulation process.

The part played by the women on the stage performance is nil but as usual in the Tamil communities, the part played by them off the stage in all aspects is tremendous but not recognized. It will be an important aspect to look into in the process of reformulation of Koothtu as a community theatre alternative to globalization.

Sivagnanam Jeyasankar, Senior Lecturer in Drama and Theatre Arts, Department of Fine Arts, Eastern University Sri Lanka.

Department of Indology, Contemporary Tamil Culture programme, French Institute of Pondicherry

Jawaharlal Nehru Conference Hall, French Institute of Pondicherry, 11, Saint Louis Street, Pondicherry - 605001