Kattaikkuttu Sangam
Transforming Culture
Transforming Lives

Challenges

Despite the great popularity of Kattaikkuttu and the on-going local support for the theatre, its existence and integrity are seriously threatened.

The commercialization of the rural economy has drastically changed the financial basis of theatre companies and the system of patronage. Among other things, this has resulted in a vicious circle of indebtedness. Many rural performers take out loans against high interest to cover the lean season or to pay huge expenditures, such as marriages, construction of a house, sudden illness or death. They are not aware of the harsh realities of loans. Whereas previously loans would be provided by company owners and the money would stay within the theatre world, this has now changed. Many performers find themselves in massive debt to financiers from outside the professional theatre world, a situation that is hard to reverse.

The life of contemporary Kattaikkuttu actors and musicians is physically trying and there is very little financial security. There is no social security for professional performers such as a pension, medical and/or accident insurances. This is one of the reasons why it has become more and more difficult to attract young people to become Kattaikkuttu performers.

Kattaikkuttu is an integral part of the rural cultural identity of poor people in the northern parts of Tamil Nadu. The night-long performances enable them to fulfil their ritual and entertainment needs and relish cultural expressions they consider their own.

Rural cultural identity, and, therefore Kattaikkuttu, too, is under threat of extinction or irrevocable change by the inroads of a rapid industrialization of the countryside. Rural culture has come to be patronizingly perceived as rustic entertainment by some of the urban arts establishment and the media. Comparisons are made with urban and "high" culture. There is consistent devaluation of rural cultural and ritual practices as unrefined and loud. This culture belongs to the uneducated and illiterate and its practices are sometimes seen as being irrational and superstitious. These value judgements discourage the rural poor from taking pride in their own roots.

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