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Reviving an indigenous form of folk theatre

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ROOTED IN THE SOIL: Mannoor Chandran essayed the role of a Korati.
ROOTED IN THE SOIL: Mannoor Chandran essayed the role of a Korati.

MANU REMAKANT

`Porattunatakam,' a form of folk theatre that is popular in North Kerala, was staged by a Palakkad-based troupe.

It was a beautiful theatrical expression of an ailing art form. Palakkad-based Mannoor Chandran and his troupe treated the audience at Karthika Tirunal Auditorium in Thiruvananthapuram to an excellent performance of `Porattunatakam.' The play was staged on the first day of Sarang National Theatre Festival, organised by Sri Sathya Sai Orphanage Trust. A form of folk theatre that is popular in Northern Kerala, humorous songs, comic innuendos, dance and music are some of the highlights of a Porattunatakam. The tale is usually on the lives of the Panars and the Koravas. Mannoor Chandran and his group of performers narrated two different tales.

Story of a jealous husband

The first was on the petty squabbles between a Korathi, who earns her livelihood as a palmist, and her husband, Koravan. However, all ends well when Koravan confronts a man who is infatuated with Korathi and tries to woo her. The second story is on the plight of a couple, Kavara and Kavarachi. Fond of festivities, the couple head out to attend `Pariyanampatta Pooram.' The couple get separated in the crowd. After they eventually find each other, they express their fears and concern. The music and songs gelled with the dialogues on stage. At first the conversations and songs seemed unfamiliar, but the audience gradually picked up the quaint phrases and expressions used. Many in the audience were surprised to see Chandran essaying the role of Korathi. "The role is usually played by a male. I believe that men can perform female characters better than women by observing their body language," says Chandran. However, Chandran, who has been in this field for the last 40 years, laments that the art form is gradually dying. "Nobody is interested in taking up this art form. Not even our children... They don't find it a practical choice in life," he says. Although modern themes and expression are added to the play, Chandran says the future of the artistes seem bleak. "If you look at the theme and the language used in the play, you will see how old the art form is. Although we try our best to preserve the art, how long can we do it," he asks.


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