Some of the historians have claims that a successful theatre form came into existence only with the coming of the Portuguese. A study of the plays of this period does not reveal the theatrical functions of rituals being utilised. In Mariamma which is considered to be one of the first accomplished plays in Malayalam exorcist ritual was introduced with the aim of giving an insight in to the social vagaries of the time. But the theatre of the time did not expose any awareness of the ritual functions in their deeper levels of actor, audience or other elements.
The history of Malayalam Theatre from 1900 to 1930 shows the new flourishing of Sangeethanatakas with the influence of Sanskrit tradition that continued for sometime. But disgusted with this, playwrights like C.V. Raman Pillai and E.V.Krishna Pillai began to write farces. No ritual influence on the Malayalam theatre is perceived here. The period from 1930-40 clearly shows a Western influence especially through the translation of Shakespearean plays. Here also the importance of the theatrical functions of rituals was unknown to it. It was in this period that social reformative plays began to appear. Plays like Adukkalayil Ninnu Arangathekku (1930) by V.T.Bhattathiripad, Pattabakki (1937) by K. Damodharan, Rithumathi (1940) by M.P.Bhattathirippadu belong to this period.
The period from 1940 to 1950 in Malayalam Theatre shows a revival. The emergence of a new phase in Malayalam Theatre with a direct influence of the Western tradition came in to existence. It was then that N. Krishna Pillai with his visible influence of Ibsen began to write plays, centred on the psychological problems of man and society, like Kanyaka (1944) Bhagnabhavanam (19491, Balabalam (1946) etc. The entrances and exists of this character, his choric function in the theatre, revives ritual memories. They provide the whole play with a metaphysical atmosphere.
The period of Malayalam Theatre from 1950-60 is very rich in its output. The stress on the socio political aspect by the theatre is the particular trend in this period. The emergence of Thoppil Bhasi with the famous theatre troupe of K.P.A.C. is the most important event of this period. But the uses and functions of rituals as a theatre device was not seen here. It was in this period some notable dramatists like P.J. Antony, S.L. Puram Sadanandan, N.N. Pillai, K.T. Muhammed etc. made their debut in Malayalam Theatre. But no awareness of indigenous culture is traceable in their Theatres.
Consequently, a few dramatists like C.N. Sreekantan Nair, G. Sankara Pillai, Kavalam Narayana Panikkar etc. tried some innovate techniques in theatre. Thus the experimental phase of Malayalam Theatre began. It is seen in this period that a new approach to Malayalam Theatre was taken. It was also as a part of the revival of the indigenous tradition of the Country in all spheres including art and literature. There arose also the feeling that the Western form was not sufficient to give full dramatic expression of the indigenous themes. Theatre men like Mohan Rakesh of the Hindi Theatre, Vijay Tendulkar of Marathi Theatre, Girish Karnad of Kannada Theatre, C. N.Sreekantan Nair and G.Sankara Pillai of Malayalam Theatre aspired for an indigenous form. Thus they began to dream of a meaningful theatre with a new indigenous culture.
As Malayalam Theatre has a great theatre-tradition based on rituals arts, the ritual concepts of the actor and audience began to tell upon it. During this time theatre workshops by important theatre personalities like M.Govindan, G.Sankara Pillai, C.N. Sreekantan Nair, Kavalam Narayana Panikkaretc. Were conducted in different parts of Kerala, and this new aspect of theatre was discussed in detail. The result was the call for an indigenous theatre in Kerala which is being called Thanathu Nataka Vedi. Thus the theatre workers began to look to the rich traditions of the ritual arts of Kerala for developing a new trend in the Modern Malayalam Theatre, a new concept based on the actor-audience relationship.
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