Kattaikkuttu Sangam
Transforming Culture
Transforming Lives


Professional performers organize themselves in theatre companies consisting of 3 musicians and 9 to 12 actors. These companies represent an informal, private enterprise system. Companies depend for their patronage on local audiences. Companies are led by "owners". The owners used to be the leading performers or vattiyars (gurus) of a company. Nowadays they are more often people who provide a loan (against high interest) to run the company and see the performers through the theatre's off-season.

Performers usually work on the basis of oral contracts, which are valid for the duration of a theatre season (mid-January to mid-October). They receive a negotiated part of the total performance fee, which a company is paid for an all-night performance. Companies get reshuffled at the end of each season when performers may go to another group. Audiences invite a company they like to perform and pay for an all-night performance collectively—from a village's or a street's public funds or through the collection of donations. Sometimes an individual donor pays for an all-night show.

Professional Kattaikkuttu companies are found in the Kanchipuram, Vellore, Tiruvannamalai, Tiruvallur, Viluppuram, Cuddalore, Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri and Salem Districts, Pondicherry as well as the southern districts of bordering Andhra Pradesh. During the season regular, well-run professional companies perform between 100 and 150 all-night performances.


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