Tamil theatre: a lost legacy
Na. Muthuswami’s pathbreaking work, with his Koothu-p-pattarai a fertile training ground for Tamil actors, is an oasis in the desert of Chennai’s serious theatre scene. In the mainstream, not even a handful of amateur theatre groups offer more than fluffy comedies. And unlike the vibrant atmosphere in the English theatre world of Chennai, albeit often of dubious quality, its Tamil counterpart does not enjoy much audience support.
Things were much better for the stage industry in the last century. While entertainment (other than films) in the Chennai of the 1950s and sixties consisted mainly of Carnatic music, the city also offered a monthly dose of amateur theatre. If your earliest ideas of classical music were fashioned by the voices and instruments of the stalwarts of the day – Ariyakudi, Semmangudi, Madurai Mani, Maharajapuram, GNB, MS, MLV, Pattammal, Palghat Mani, Lalgudi, Krishnan and many more – Tamil drama offered considerable variety too.
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