To be good in patti mandrams, one has to be well-read, have strong oratorical skills and a broad vision of life, says Solomon Pappiah
CHASTE TAMIL has become rare to come across. Blending it with other languages, such as English, is a matter of great concern for many a scholar and language lover. However, thanks to the efforts of people like Solomon Pappiah, `patti mandram' shows have picked up well among the masses and have become a medium to propagate good Tamil. But more than that, they have emerged as a forum to discuss serious social issues and propose solutions.
It is now 44 years since Pappiah took up the job of popularising `patti mandrams'. An ardent admirer of Subramania Bharati, his interest in Tamil literature prompted him to join patti mandrams. After a long exposure in the field he became a `naduvar' (moderator) for the show.
Despite being a veteran in the field, his passion for patti mandram is still something that inspires youngsters. This is evident from the packed auditoriums whenever patti mandrams are held and the loud applause that they evoke.
According to Pappiah, patti mandrams were held in temples on topics from Tamil literature or based on literary characters. It was more an analysis in which the speakers discussed at length the virtues of the character or the topic. "Our readers generally accept anything as it is. They do not tend to criticise. Criticism is more a western concept, which patti mandrams have imbibed in a constructive way," Pappiah feels.
From temple to stage
Patti mandram was for a while viewed as a scandalous affair, for it attempted a criticism of established traditions and values. Soon it went out of the temples and came on stage, where it had to be supported by sponsors. "We found only the learned lot can enjoy a patti mandram on literary topics. I tried a little shift in my shows introducing socially relevant and domestic issues, which have been received well by the audience."
If in the beginning, only the spiritually-inclined took part in patti mandrams, it has now become popular among the masses with the literate as well as the illiterate taking to it with ardour.
The media's role is not negligible, as Government-owned channels such as Doordarshan have popularised it to a great extent.
Patti mandrams have now become regular shows during every festival. Now even private channels can be seen patronising this form, says Pappiah.
According to him, the art form dates back to about 2,000 years as references to patti mandram can be found in classical literature of the earlier era such as the `Kambaramayanam' and `Manimegalai'.
How do the youth take to patti mandrams nowadays?
"Although many youngsters with good oratorical skills come forward to take part, they are more attracted to the popularity and the media hype the form receives. To be good in patti mandrams, one has to have a broad vision of life besides being well read. Social commitment and an ability to feel the pulse of changing times are also important, " Pappiah explains.
Socially relevant issues
Pappiah is nonetheless of the opinion that patti mandrams would be the only form that could sustain the purity of language. However, it has to evolve further taking up more of socially relevant issues and initiating more participation from the audience.
Blood donation, environmental conservation and such topics have already found their place in patti mandram shows. They now have to expand and include the audience too.
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