Watch Therukuthu play 'Panchali Sabtham' in Coimbatore

Watch Therukuthu play 'Panchali Sabtham' in Coimbatore


The play is being organised and performed by the city-based Udalveli Arts Foundation

The play is being organised and performed by the city-based Udalveli Arts Foundation. Photo courtesy: Special arrangement

The street play Panchali Sabatham basically lasts all night. “It usually starts at 10.30 pm and goes on till 6 am the next day,” says Therukuthu veteran PK Sambandan. The 72-year-old, who runs the Purisai Duraisamy Kannappa Thambiran Therukuthu troupe in Purisai village in Tiruvannamalai district, is bringing the play to the city this weekend.

However, this version is suitable for stage presentations and is an hour long. The play is being organised and performed by the city-based Udalveli Arts Foundation in collaboration with Purisai Duraisamy Kannappa Thambiran Parambarai Therukuthu Manram and produced by Chennai-based Ilulu, a collective that aims to provide economic stability to artistes. “Our idea is to take Therukuthu art to children,” says Dharanidharan, founder of Udalveli. “They may have seen or read it in textbooks; we want to show them what it really is.”

Members of the Purisai Kannappa Thambiran Therukuthu troupe getting ready for a play

Members of the Purisai Kannappa Thambiran Therukuthu troupe getting ready for a play | Photo credit: Periyasamy M

It is possible to tell a dense and layered story through an epic Mahabharata In 60 minutes? “Yes,” says Sambandan, adding that his play will depict Panchali's story, beginning with Duryodhana's game of dice in which he defeats the Pandavas, forcing them to gamble away everything they have, including their wife. “He sends his brother to fetch her,” he says, adding that his version ends with her being humiliated and stripped, finally vowing never to tie her hair until those responsible for her fate pay with their lives.

Sambandhan continues to teach Therukoothu For those who are interested, it is a good option. Many of his students have gone on to perform on stages around the world. “Last year, students from Delhi’s National School of Drama came to visit us at Purisai,” he says, adding that they trained with him for 40 days and finally performed the play they had learnt in Russia – Indrajit.

The short formats of his intense and elaborate pieces, performed live and without mics, have evolved out of the demand of the current times. “We conceptualised these about 15 years ago, when we started performing in cities. In auditoriums, we don't have the facility to perform all night long,” he explains.

Sambandhan says his plays can be understood and appreciated by children aged 10 and above, and for acting, they can start training after the age of 15. Children, especially from rural backgrounds, are still attracted to him Therukoothu“We hope more children in cities will understand this traditional art,” he says.

Sambandan says the play is being performed in the city by artistes in their 20s who once joined his troupe when they were 12 or 13. All the artistes are from his village, and joined his school after being attracted by his performances which was and still is part of the spirit of Purisai.

Panchali Sabatham is on June 28 and 29 at 6.30 pm at 641 Community. Entry is free but pre-registration is a must. For details, call 9500641043, visit at641 Community on Instagram. There is also a show at Rukara Mahal on Municipal Colony Main Road, Erode on June 30.


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