(Last Updated on : 21-04-2012)
Origin of Malayalam Theatre date back a long way to the 1893. A proper evolutionary history of modern Malayalam Theatre
begins with the publication of the translation of Sakuntalam by Valiyakoi Thampuran in 1893. Its further development has been independent of the indigenous tradition and culture, as seen in its susceptibility to different theatre strains, native as well as foreign. But most of the ritual performing arts of Kerala, like Theyyam, Mudiyettu, Padayani, Koodiyattom etc. with their own performing texts, audience and literature, have a developmental history rooted in the indigenous traditions.
The first social play in Malayalam
may be said to be Mariamma (1903) by Kocheeppan Tharakan. Then there was the beginning of Tamil Theatre
- tradition which owes its origin to the revival of Carnatic Music
, by the then King of Travancore, Swathy Thirunal. During this time the decorative elements of Parse Theatre
also had been fairly pronounced on the Malayalam theatre
. Struck by the feeling that this imitative trend was inferior to the native culture, some outstanding playwrights of the time wrote some notable plays of the early period. Some of the important plays are Sangeethanaishatham by T.C. Achuthamenon, Sadarma by K.C. Kesava Pillai, Pakkanarcharitham by Vidwan Kelunayar. It was at this time that the Chavuttunatakam and Kalaripayattu elements found their way into the theatre of Malayalam. While opposing that the origin of Malayalam Theatre can be traced in Kathakali, Koothu or Sankakkali, C.J. Thomas tries to trace it in Sanskrit
and English traditions (1950). He claims that a successful theatre form came into existence only with the coming of the Portuguese, in Jenova Natakam (Chavittunatakam). A study of the plays of this period does not reveal the theatrical functions of rituals being utilised.
Plays with the influence of Sanskrit language
or Tamil language
, introduced 'Nandi', 'Rangapooja' and 'Vidushaka'. But in them the introduction of rituals was only on the peripheral level. In Mariamma which is considered to be one of the first accomplished plays in Malayalam language
an 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.