(Last Updated on : 28-03-2012)
Purisai Duraisamy Kannappa Thambiran, the Terukkuttu
artist, is the third generation of the famous Thambirans from Purisai village in Tiruvannamalai district
. Born in 1915 he started performing with his grandfather Veerasamy Thambiran. It happened in the mid-nineteenth century. He trained under his father, Duraisamy Thambiran, and his uncle, Raghava Thambiran. Acting was in their blood. He started acting from his early boyhood and acted with his elder cousin, the legendary Natesa Thambiran. It was in the cousins' lifetime that recognition came to Terukkuttu, otherwise in the throes of extinction.
Between them they shared the principal heroic characters of the Mahabharata
in the eighteen-day enactments of the Kurukshetra war. The playing arena encompassed the whole village. Besides, the Thambiran troupe consisting of family members, other villagers performed tales from the epics, Puranas, and Tamil folk legend. Some examples can be given as Hiranya samharam i.e. "Hiranya's Destruction", Harishchandra
, Kovalan charitram i.e. "Kovalan's Life", Pavalakkodi, and Satyavan-Savitri i.e. "Satyavan and Savitri". Some of these formed the staple of professional Tamil theatre
. These shows, however, were not in Terukkuttu, but semi-Parsi-theatre
style by which they supplemented their income during the lean months of the year.
Kannappa expanded Terukkuttu's areas of interest to contemporary concerns like environment, drawing upon episodes from the epics that speak of such subjects. He trained pupils under government fellowships. For them, he adapted modern texts like Subramania Bharati's Panchali sapatam i.e. "Panchali's Vow" in 1982 to Terukkuttu expression. He staged Brecht's Caucasian Chalk Circle in Terukkuttu style in 1987 with a script by and collaboration from K. S. Rajendran of the National School of Drama
. In 1995-6, along with Na. Muthuswamy, he helped a Colombian group to adapt a story by Garcia Marquez and perform it in Terukkuttu form.
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