Kattaikkuttu Sangam
Transforming Culture
Transforming Lives

Performers

Anybody can become a Kattaikkuttu performer, but traditionally Kattaikkuttu practitioners belonged to families for whom theatre or music was a hereditary profession. They would learn the job from their fathers and other male relatives. More recently, people for whom Kattaikkuttu is not a hereditary profession have entered the theatre profession. Most new performers come from lower social backgrounds. During the Kattaikkuttu season companies travel a lot, but all performers remain firmly based in their own villages where they return in between performances and during the off-season.

Kattaikkuttu practitioners belong to the lower end of the caste hierarchy, are poor and have little formal education. No persons of the higher castes and/or more affluent layers of society have joined the theatre so far.

The theatre is labelled a "folk" form by the urban-based arts establishment. The performers have little influence on how they are seen by the arts establishment. They lack the skills to define and talk about their theatre and their artistic practice in terms that are understood by and acceptable to the arts establishment, arts critics and funding agencies. At the same time, the urban elite are unfamiliar with the ways in which Kattaikkuttu and other folk arts operate. This gives rise to unjustified believes which appear to confirm the "low status" of these forms and their exponents, such as: "The folk arts don't require any training." "Kattaikkuttu performances are all randomly improvised shows." "Kattaikkuttu is a dying theatre."

T. Rangasami is the Kattaikkuttu Sangam's elected President. He is a professional mrdangam and dholak player and a music teacher at the Kattaikkuttu Gurukulam. Rangasami's father Tangavel was the regular mrdangam-player in the company of Rajagopal's father. Likewise, Rangasami was the regular mrdangam-player in Rajagopal's company, until the company was discontinued, enabling Rajagopal and Rangasami to work for the Kattaikkuttu Sangam and Gurukulam. Rangasami's younger brother is a mrdangam-player, too. Both of them learned from their father, Tangavel. Rangasami's daughter, Mahalakshmi, is one of the Kattaikkuttu Gurukulam's talented girl-students. She specializes in acting, but has also learned to play the mrdangam.

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