The traditional folk theatre form of Kerala is known as Mudiyettu. It is celebrated in the month of Vrischikam (November-December). It is usually performed only in the temples of Goddess Kali and depicts the triumph of Goddess Bhadrakali over the asura Darika. The seven characters in Mudiyettu-Shiva, Narada, Darika, Danavendra, Bhadrakali, Kooli and Koimbidar (Nandikeshvara) are all heavily made-up. Theyyam is a traditional and extremely popular folk theatre form of Kerala. Theyyam is performed by various castes to appease and worship these spirits. One of the distinctive features of Theyyam is the colourful costume and awe-inspiring headgears (mudi) nearly five to six feet high made of bamboos and wooden planks and dyed into different strong colours using turmeric, wax and arac.
One of the oldest traditional theatre forms of Kerala is Koodiyaattam which is based on Sanskrit theatre traditions. The characters of this theatre form are Chakyaar or actor, Naambiyaar, the instrumentalists and Naangyaar, those who portray the women's roles. The Sutradhar or narrator and the Vidushak or jesters are the protagonists. It is the Vidushak alone who delivers the dialogues. Importance on hand gestures and eye movements makes this dance and theatre form unique. Yakshagaana, the traditional theatre form of Karnataka, is based on mythological stories and Indian Puranas. The most popular episodes are from the Mahabharata i.e. swayamvar of Draupadi, Subhadra vivah, Abhimanyu vadh, Karna-Arjun yudh and from Ramayana i.e. Rajyaabhishek, Lava-kusha Yudh and Panchavati. ;
Traditional Theatre of Tamil Nadu
In Tamil Nadu, Therukoothu is the most popular form of folk drama. It is generally performed at the time of annual temple festivals of Mariamman (Rain Goddess) to achieve prosperous harvest. In Therukoothu there is a cycle of eight plays based on the life of Draupadi. Kattiakaran, the Sutradhara of the Therukoothu performance, gives the gist of the play to the audience and Komali entertains the audience with his buffoonery. The traditional theatre forms of Swang, Nautanki, Bhagat, etc. are usually similar. There is often stylistic variety, which toughens their distinctiveness. Therukoothu is a traditional street play of Tamil Nadu. The art of entertainment had reached to its peak in Tamil Nadu at an early age. There were mainly three forms of entertainment in ancient Tamil Nadu. These include the 'iyal' (literature), 'isai' (music) and 'natagam' (drama). All these had their roots in the rural folk theatre like 'therukoothu', an energetic living theatre of Tamil Nadu. According to the traditional system, only the male members can be seen in a Therukoothu troupe. It is organised mainly during the summer months when there is little agricultural work. The performers wear complex and heavy costumes and make up. They put on high towering head dress, sparkling shoulder plates and wide colourful skirts. They put on elaborate make up which helps to transfer the audience into the world of the mythological characters. The orchestra of 'Therukoothu' consists of a 'mukhaveena', an 'mridhangam', a harmonium and cymbals played by the natuvanar.
The art form 'Therukoothu' is more popular in the northern districts of Tamil Nadu. This street play is generally organised in the villages of Tamil Nadu during the festivals in the months of 'Panguni' i e, in March-April and Aadi i, e, July-August. The Therukoothu play generally commences in the late evening and concludes only during the late hours of the nights. The performers of this art form keep the audiences stick to its end and nobody leaves the play in the mid-way. Actually, the performance is so attractive that no one can think of leaving half way. The usual timing of Therukoothu performance is from 9 pm till sunrise. Bhagavati Pattu, Tolpava Koothu, Pavakathakali are some of the famous South Indian Theatre.