(Last Updated on : 29-01-2009)
Tanatu Natakavedi can be explained as the 'indigenous theatre'. This is an important development in contemporary Malayalam theatre
. The idea was vague to begin with. This came up at a theatre camp or Kalari held in Sasthankotta, Kollam district, in 1967. Those who conceived it felt that the theatre of Kerala could become creative and strong only if it had an identity of its own. Thus in order to achieve that it had to be rooted in the native culture and associated with the artistic tradition of the land. Soon, playwrights and directors undertook the task of translating this concept into reality. Their efforts encouraged by similar attempts in other parts of India to evolve an 'Indian theatre
C. N. Srikanthan Nair
, who was an ingenious dramatist, took up the challenge of writing a play indigenous in form as well as in content. As for example Kali in 1968 dealt with a semi-mythical narrative expressed through a sequence of similar images. Although its production did not succeed, it induced others like G. Sankara Pillai
and K. N. Panikkar
to mould their own models. Pillai adopted modern dramatic concepts to suit the Indian outlook, incorporating characters and images from the native tradition. Many of his plays, especially Karutta daivatte tedi i.e. 'In Search of the Black God' in 1980 represent this theory. Some were effectively staged, and well received even outside the state. A number of young directors followed his example. Unfortunately, some of their works tended to become odd combinations of Western and Indian ideas, failing to appeal to playgoers in general. A few attempted to adapt traditional forms like Kathakali
to dramatize new themes. But the approach invited criticism from advocates of conventional proscenium theatre as well as those who opposed any distortion of traditional performing arts.
Panikkar conceived the narrative in a mythical form as in traditional theatre. He relied on its underlying aesthetic concepts and not on borrowed foreign techniques to give expression to that content. Some young artists came forward to add variety to this type of performance. They give it an undeniable place in contemporary Malayalam theatre. However, the success of this approach depended on a sound knowledge of the basic elements of the tradition. The absence of this knowledge would be limited its wider application, because many did not have the in-depth knowledge of the aesthetic aspects of Kerala's performing arts. The knowledge of the indigenous system of music, and the principles of the Natyashastra
that Panikkar possessed was very important.