The "Malayali Memorial" struggle also radically changed the whole sensibility of the middle class intellectuals of south Kerala and elsewhere. Intellectuals like G.P. Pillai, C.V. Raman Pillai, Swadeshabhimani Ramakrishna Pillai, C. Krishna Pillai and Kumaran Asan in particular started expressing themselves in a different tone and idiom and the people felt themselves being drawn to an alternative ideological domain which was basically antagonistic towards the hegemonic ideology of Brahmanism and British rulers.
The theatrical performance strategies developed during this period is to be examined in the light of the newly emerging social consciousness among the educated and the uneducated. In 1909 Kumaran Asan's Veena Poovu (The Fallen Flower) was a radical break through in the field of Malayalam poetry. Though the force of C.V. Raman Pilla's Kurupilla Kalari (1909) did not in any way open the doors of a new age in the history of Malayalam theatre, it can be considered as a piece which created a change in the form and content of modern Malayalam dramatic representation. C.V. Raman Pillai pushed out the abundance of music and the conventional "Raja Part" (role of King) from his plays. But the ideological influence of Kochunni Tampuram (Kalyani Natakam) K.C. Keshava Pillai (Lakshmi Kalyanam) and Munshi Rama Kurup (Chakki Changaram) can be felt in the plays of C.V. and the major playwrights of the period E.V. Krishna Pillai, N.G. Keshava Pillai, N.P. Chellappan Nair and T.N. Gopinathan Nair.
The year 1929 is most significant in the sense that V.T. Bhattathiripad wrote his play Adukkalayil Ninnu Arangathekku. It was the first play in Malayalam to have a definite and concrete social objective and which was produced in 1929 itself as part of a very powerful social reformist movement led by Namboodiri Yogakshema Sabha. The degenerate Brahmanical ideology and its social structure had its first powerful assault from within for the first time and the most fervent slogan of the period was for the transformation of "Brahmans into human beings".
From the 1930's to 1940's Malayalam performance patterns changed so radically that the structure of human experience encapsulated in them underwent thorough transformation from that of the Sangeetha Nataka style. The result was the emergence of political theatre in Malayalam in the real sense of the term. This new performance pattern which was basically realistic reached every nook and corner of Kerala to establish a lasting effect upon the future developments in the radical theatre practice of Kerala. It is indeed illuminating to have a glimpse at the overall social background of the origin of radical political theatre movement in Kerala. Malayalam theatre practice came of age in 1937 and the subsequent developments in Kerala theatre very clearly indicates the class-contradictions embedded at the core of the fast changing social formations.
The historic struggles which shook the foundations of the British Empire in India during the period 1940 to 1947 had their far-reaching implications in art and culture of Kerala. As early as in 1936 when the political arena in Kerala was becoming more and more tense with the peasant landlord antagonism and anti-British movement, the ideological intellectualism of the middle class was struggling to find strategies of containment in various fields of creative activity.
There were highly talented actors like P.K. Vikraman Nair, who were also dead against the superficial farces being presented and "enjoyed" by the people. Krishna Pillai's plays were produced with the backbone given by the prominent actors of Tiruvananthapuram. The themes of N. Krishna Pillai's plays do not bear any testimony to the gathering storm. The main burden of the plays of the forties-man-woman relation-reflects the newly acquired consciousness of playwrights like N. Krishna Pillai.
The theatre history of the 1940's will not be complete if the intervention of two playwrights, Pulimana Parameswaran Pillai and C.J. Thomas, can be excluded, who were adventurous enough to go beyond the realms of Ibsenist fixation of the period. Pulimana's Samathwavadi (1944) was a courageous experimentation in theatre practice which can be categorised as the first expressionist play in Malayalam which for many reasons got recognised and produced only in the sixties.
C.J. Thomas, whose play written in the forties, Avan Veendum Varunnu (1949), thematically listens to the Second World War and tries to sort out one of the crises which disturbed the social life of Kerala-Absentee-husbandism. From 1942 to 1947 is a period of intense political activity resulting in Indian Independence. With the transfer of power and establishment of Government of India at the centre and states, things changed rapidly. The inhuman massacre of minorities and the subsequent exchange of population cast a shadow too deep for any other thought and it was in the fifties that the country started settling down.
But, by 1949, seeds were sown for the future furthering and development of radical theatre practice by progressive play-wrights like Edasseri Govindan Nair (Kootukrishi-1949). The presentation of this play heralded a revitalised and organised theatre culture especially in Malabar.
The organized theatre movement in Malabar under the banner of Malabar Kendra Kalasamithi can be looked upon as the logical continuity of the political theatre movement in Kerala inaugurated by K. Damodaran's Pattabakki. Apart from these bright patches the stage in the forties in Kerala was dominated by trivial farces and melodramatic presentations overburdened with music and sentimental songs.
But the fifties in Malayalam theatre presents a very different picture and the dominance of the theatre culture of the Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA) had given impetus to a radical collectivity which shaped innumerable amateur theatre groups in Kerala, mostly under the guidance of the Communist party. The most significant aspect of the impact of IPTA, it can be argued, is that for the first time in Kerala, the Communist party formulated a cultural policy and programmes of its own. What came as a result was another theatre organisation similar to that of Malabar Kendra Kala Samithi: K.P.A.C. (Kerala People's Arts Club) which spearheaded a powerful people's theatre movement in Kerala. The agitprop nature of the most prominent of the plays produced by K.P.A.C., Ningalenne Communistakki, was part and parcel of the Communist movement in Kerala and the performance design of the play had immediate impact upon the audience.
The period from 1950 to 1957 has to be examined in the light of the powerful progressive theatre movement developed by Malabar Kendra Kala Samithi. This theatre movement of the left with definite ideological affinities with the IPTA and having its dynamic nucleus in Kozhikode conducted theatre festivals which influenced the future developments in radical theatre practice in Kerala. In a way, it was the beginning of a cultural renaissance in Malabar under the leadership of Malabar Kendra Kala Samithi, which did not concentrate on theatre practice alone but on all other cultural fronts. It was the era in which the people's library movement - Kerala Grantha Sala Sangham - formulated its programmes which were basically an attempt to raise the consciousness of the people in the villages and almost all the libraries and reading rooms thus conceived had a theatre organization, attached to them. This cultural action for freedom, in the broadest sense, unleashed the hidden potential of the village communities in Malabar. The idea of village theatre gatherings gained.
Jeevitham, Prasavikkatha Amma, Nirahara Samaram, Pazhaya Bandham, Kanyadanam (all by Thikkodiyan), Mannum Pennum, Thee Kondu Kalikkaruthu (P.C. Kuttikrishnan- Uroob), Tharavatitham, Sneha Bhandhangal, Manushya Hridayangal, Janma Bhoomi, (all by Cherukad); Karavatta Pasu, Ithu Boomiyanu, Velichum Vilakkannveshikkunnu, Manushyan Karagrihathilanu Puthiya Veedu, Rathri Vandikal , Njan Petikkunnu, Chuvanna Gatikaram (all by K.T. Mohammed); Kandam Vecha Kottu (Mohammed Yoosuf); Tharavadum Madissilayum (P.N.M. Alikkoya); Prabhatham Chuvanna Theruvil (A.K. Puthiyangadi) and so many other plays were either meant for presentation during the great theatre festivals or for presenting before village communities.
In the south of Kerala as well, the fifties have given rise to certain progressive trends in theatre culture. The amateur theatre practice was mainly centred upon the plays of T.N. Gopinathan Nair. Another attempt, which did not last for long was the formation of Navasamskara Samithi which reviewed the presentation of play like Avan Veendum Varunnu (C.J. Thomas), what matters most in this context is the active participation of eminent theatre personalities like K.V. Neelankandan Nair, P.K. Veeraraghavan Nair and P.K. Vikraman Nair to accelerate the process of creating a theatre atmosphere which could basically challenge and change the trivial theatrical practices of the times. But the impact of their efforts did not last long even though the stage in Tiruvananthapuram did produce serious presentations like Thoovalum Thoombayum (P.K. Veeraraghavan Nair), Nashtakkatchavadam (C.N. Sreekantan Nair) Kunhali Marakkar (K. Padmanabhan Nair). Commercial theatre practice had a tremendous appeal among the masses especially in the south in the fifties for one reason or other.
The only serious venture in the midst of innumerable populist commercial theatre practice was the work of C.N. Sreekantan Nair. He in fact had tried to formulate his own performance theory which inspired serious individualist dramatists and theatre activists like G. Sankara Pillai and Kavalam Narayana Panickar to experiment and codify their theatre practices in meaningful ways.
The decline of the radical progressive theatre practice after the infamous "liberation struggle" of 1959 gave added energy and enthusiasm to those theatre activists who were deliberately maintaining strategies of silence when social life in Kerala was being shaken by the forces of degenerate communal and ruling class political ideologies.
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