The Kattaikkuttu Women's Dream Project aims to support five talented young women Kattaikkuttu performers who are determined to not give up their professional careers in the arts, even after marriage and having children. To realize this dream, they need time and space to dream; time and space that allows these talented actresses to use their skills, acquired over 6-10 years of training; time and space to image future possibilities, roles, identities and achievements, even when these ideas would go against the grain and against a public opinion that considers performance a no-go area for "good" rural women.
The dream project aims to
- Create a safe working space for the actresses, an enabling atmosphere away from home where they can dream, train, create, teach and perform and where child care is available on site;
- Develop new roles & new repertoire that push the boundaries of a male theatre tradition to open up new artistic spaces for women; currently, the women are working with P. Rajagopal, Hanne M. de Bruin and Maitri Gopalakrishnan on developing a new production featuring some of the problems rural women performers face -- both from within their own families and families-in-law and from society at large.
- S. Tamilarasi, a star performer who has played leading female and male roles. Tamilarasi has been teaching and performing at the Kattaikkuttu Gurukulam until her marriage last year. She has travelled abroad for residencies in Switzerland (Scuola Teatro Dimitri) and France (Théâtre du Soleil). Tamilarasi has a five months old baby-boy.
- K. Venda, another very talented performer with a nick for comedy. In addition to being an actress, Venda has a Diploma in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. She is married and has two daughters who are 3 and 1 years old.
- R. Mahalakshmi, a feisty actress known for her performances of Krishna. Mahalakshmi has completed an MA in English. She recently married her life-long love P. Moorthy, like her an alumnus of the Kattaikkuttu Gurukulam and a well-known Kattaikkuttu actor. Mahalakshmi is in her 5th month of pregnancy.
- A. Bharathi, with her diminutive appearance and a lot of mind power. Bharathi studies English and performance studies at Ashoka University in Haryana. She is married to P. Sasikumar, another alumnus of the Gurukulam and a talented mukavinai-player. They have a one-year-old girl child.
- S. Srimathy, an actress with a beautiful voice who does both female and male roles. Srimathy is in her last year of a B. Com degree (held up by the pandemic). She has continued performing and right now resists getting married until she has completed her studies.
All these 5 women are determined to continue their career in Kattaikkuttu therewith resisting public opinion that considers such a choice "inappropriate" for a rural woman. All five want to be sources of inspiration for other young women like them showing them that being a Kattaikkuttu performer as a woman is possible and a valid and dignified option.
What is Kattaikkuttu?
Kattaikkuttu (கட்டைக்கூத்து) or Therukoothu is a traditional Tamil language-based form of total theatre. With the actors dressed in elaborate costumes and mask-like facial make-up, Kattaikkuttu performances feature prose, songs, music, acting and dance to produce all-night, that is 8 hour-long, performance events for rural, non-elite audiences.
Traditionally, Kattaikkuttu was performed by men only. They played both male and female roles. With the foundation of the Kattaikkuttu Gurukulam (2002-2020) this has changed. Through the advocacy of its artistic leader P. Rajagopal and theatre scholar Hanne M. de Bruin, artistic training and live Kattaikkuttu performances became accessible to rural girls and young women. Until their appearance on the rural stage, many rural spectators believed that Kattaikkuttu as a theatre form would be physically too demanding for women to perform.
Rural girls’ and women’s participation in professional Kattaikkuttu training and all-night performances has not been easy and has met with opposition, both from the families of the women performers themselves and rural society at large. This society continues to consider theatre an out-of-bounds profession for women. Young women who defy social opinion and do become professional performers are considered public women putting their chances to find a suitable marriage partner at risk, in addition to potentially ruining their family honor.
To pay for the women's salaries, travel, food and child care and the development of new work, we are looking at raising an amount of Rs. 7,50,000 (EUR 8600 or US $ 10200) between now and the end of 2021. The Kattaikkuttu Sangam's support will help the women and their young families to navigate the hardships caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Because of the pandemic, live Kattaikkuttu performances have not been possible for the last 18 months.
Updates about the Dream Project will be posted on the dedicated Facebook page of the Kattaikkuttu Women Performers. For further information you can contact us also at firstname.lastname@example.org.