Presently, the practitioner of Kerala theatre is well aware of the aesthetics and crafts of his medium, as his contemporary at any other part of the cosmos. The lack of material and finance resources created another strange scenario for the theatre enthusiasts of Kerala. Initially, however, the government of the state was not too friendly into helping theatre culture to flourish in the state. The State Sangeetha Nataka Academy manages the schedule for organizing theatre in the state, but the lack of fund sometimes deter them from taking necessary steps. State Sangeetha Nataka Academy organizes theatre festival in the state which attracts huge crowds from across the country and around the world. The taker for Malayalam theatre in the contemporary scenario is dismal. The acceptance is slowly fading away. As a result it is seen that theatre enthusiast either to the film or TV or to other engagements, in his pursuit to earn a livelihood. Adding to the worry, people envisage disillusionment and confusion in the future of Malayalam theatre. The major complain, however, has been that the present theater is not addressing to the social and human issues as it did in the past.
Having said all that, one must always remember that the Malayalam theatre has evolved amidst dilemmas and confusions. The last fifty years of theatre in Kerala has been very productive as it has seen a lot of constructive changes, both in content and concept, in form and organization. Going by the history of Malayalam theatre, the major development or growth of this theatre occurred in the first twenty-five years of this century. Then this from of art was used in addressing social issues. With time, new improved technologies were brought in to develop Malayalam theatre. A lot of successful drama were staged and a good number of these sensible productions, contributed to the formation of the present Keralite identity with a rational and a reasonable social outlook.
After the independence of India the story of Kerala theatre changed drastically. The thumping success of socially progressive plays like Ningalenne Communistakki and the productions of Malabar Kendra Kalasamithi inspired a mainstream theatre culture that gradually fell into the rut of repeated cliches and formulas in content, structure, acting, music and all departments of the production. During this time, young playwrights with potential like; C.N.Sreekantan Nair and C.J.Thomas have written plays that did not confirm to the run of the mill creations of the period. Still their plays like Lankalakshmi and Aa manushyan nee thanne (That man is you) did not resulted in productions until 1975. After the British left India, country was familiarizing itself with the growing awareness of theatre culture. New institutes and schools began were set up in order to impart theatre education to the people. Though, the first theatre school was set up at Trichur in the year 1978, education of theatre was introduced much before through theater workshops - Nataka Kalaries, organized by late G.Sankara Pillai and others. Malayalam theatre started to develop as an art from with its own aesthetic standards and one that demanded stern and continuous assurance from the artists. The urge to evolve theatre practice, rooted in Indian performance tradition, was joined by Kavalam Narayana Panikker, G Sankara Pillai, R.Narendra Prasad and others with productions like Avanavan Kadamba (the self-fence), Karimkutty (both by Kavalam Narayana Panikker), Karutha daivathe thedi (In search of the black god) by G.Sankara Pillai, and Souparnnika By R.Narendraprasad, and also with the theoretical comprehension.
During the late seventies and early eighties saw a quantum jump in the concept and practice of Malayalam theatre. Many young theatre enthusiasts made their own troupes and theatre companies. This actually helped promoting the Kerala theatre culture. The street plays put up by Kerala Sastra Sahithya Parishat had good theatre in it. The productions like Nattugaddika (by K.J.Baby) - performed by the tribal of the Vayanadu district along with the activists of Communist Party of India Liberation, with a content that is highly political, theme and structure evolved from the tribal myths and rituals, presented in a sort of street corner, during the period of emergency under strong police vigil and threats of arrest - gave new meanings to the purpose and practice of theatre.
Almost all villages in the Indian state of Kerala organized theatre competitions that have also been the school for many theatre workers to breed. Popular theater personalities came to the fore, who made tremendous impact later on. However, this boom did not last for a long time as desperation and confusion creped in. With too much experimentation, the quality of the contents was seriously sacrificed and as a result the audience slowly turned away. Many of the potential talents left theatre for films as actors or technicians.
During such a dire strait, foreign investment somewhat helped Malayalam theatre to look up as talented directors and artists were wooed into their trap and very talented and promising directors like Jose Chiramel were the first among the prey. Presently the Kerala Theater is still in the phase of reemerging. All the concerned groups are working towards bring back the golden phase of the Kerala theatre.
Groups like Lokadharmi Thrippunithura, Abhinaya Thiruvananthapuram, and Center for performing arts Kollam, Jananayana Vadanappalli, A.S.Smaraka Kalavedi Karalmanna, Desaposhini Kozhikodu, and Annoor peoples arts club Payyannoor are doing effective work with a clear vision against all odds and have come with meaningful productions.
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