(Last Updated on : 28/03/2012)
Natesan Muthuswamy is a famous personality in theatre in the Indian state
of Tamil Nadu
. He was born in the village of Punjai, Thanjavur district
in 1936. He became an established short-story writer before venturing into theatre. His career as a playwright was shaped largely by an encounter with Terukkuttu, which overwhelmed him completely. He gradually gave up his first love, the short story, and changed course to drama. A constant interaction with Terukkuttu
resulted in his writing style acquiring a Terukkuttu orientation. His theatre in its full form drifted away from the verbal to the visual, the acting conceived as choreography of bodily gestures, expressions, and movements, with stylized speech patterns which he believed border on poetry.
Life in Theatre for Natesan Muthuswamy
In 1977 Natesan Muthuswamy established a theatre training institution in Chennai
named Koothu-p-pattarai. This was opened for training in folk forms and production of drama based on his vision of theatre. He wrote many plays after his first, Kalam kalamaha i.e. 'Time after Time' in 1969, including Narkalikkamr i.e. "Chair Possessor" in 1974, Suvarottikal i.e. "Wall Posters" in 1986, Natrrunaiappati in 1988, and Inkilantu i.e. "England" in 1989. He adapted from Bhasa
and dramatized from the Mahabharata
in Terukkuttu style. He also applied this to scripts for social campaigns on AIDS, ecology, and environment. Anrru puttiya vandi i.e. "The Cart That Was Ready to Go That Day" in 1982 is a collection of his articles on folk and classical Indian musical theatre
Koothu-p-pattarai grew into a premier training institute, generously funded since 1984 by the Ford Foundation. It collaborated with Max Mueller Bhavan and Alliance Franchise to produce modern European drama by Brecht, Eugene Ionesco, Max Frisch, and others. It also conducts street theatre
and takes its productions all over India. The other functions can be mentioned as it educates students from India and abroad in folk and classical theatre, and invites eminent figures to teach. By 1988, it developed into a well-equipped repertory company, and a documentation centre for all Tamil folk arts. Muthuswamy can take credit that his sustained promotion of Terukkuttu and its leader, Kannappa Thambiran, resulted in their acquisition of a profile in Indian theatre circles.
The interdisciplinary involvement of the painter Krishnamoorthy with Koothu-p-pattarai in its early years deserves special mention. A. V. Dhanushkodi and Bhagirathi Narayanan were associated with the English-theatre group. The Madras Players also worked there. Its intercultural activities include collaboration with Mapa Teatro of Bogota, Colombia, to dramatize in Terukkuttu form a story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The Old Man with Huge Wings was staged in Chennai and Bogota and productions of Muthuswamy's Inkilantu and Ionesco's Macbett as comic theatre at the Singapore Festival of Arts in 1998.