Therukoothu is primarily a medium of entertainment but also acts as a stage for social teaching and a guardian of the Indian epics. In a quaint village of Purisai about 120 kms from Chennai, lies the nexus for the ancient art of Therukoothu.

Picture credit - Raja Pandian

The village aims at conserving and promoting the folk art with an establishment for training young artists and conducting festivals, which are famous around the world in the theatre society. Purisai was also the home to Purisai Kannappa Thambiran, who revitalized the art by taking it to international platforms. By adapting narratives from “Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle and Marquez’s An Old Man with Huge Wings” this form of art has brought theatre life Sweden, Singapore, Sri Lanka and even Paris under its spell.

The troupes are an all male ensemble with every artist prepared to enact any character. The current troupe in Purisai consists of around 40 members out of whom 24 are apprentices. The artists don elaborate costumes and detailed make up which is an art in itself. The trainees undergo vigorous training to excel in their performance. With the lack of technology, they are trained to sing in a high-pitched voice to reach out to the crowds. The group members are all employed in alternative jobs and come together in the evenings for practice.

“Therukoothu is not just theatre; it combines people’s sentiment, morals and attitudes to life” says Manikandan , 16 who is training to become an artist.


Since performance is on the streets, people find it relatable and social concerns are often taken up. Awareness on HIV/AIDS, use of plastic products, global warming have been intelligently woven into the plot in recent times

The art of Therikoothu is handed down from generation to generation. In the earlier days, they travelled as a troupe from claiming the villages they travel to their stage. Kalaimamani P.K.Sambandam Thambiran is a fifth generation artist who heads the village troup reminisces a period when “artists were held in high regard and invitations were extended by village heads for performances. Comparatively, most of us perform on our own will and live on donations”.

"Therikoothu is not a dying art. Earlier there were only 4-5 troupes but now we have around 50 troupes in the state. So, competition is high and we have to be on top of our game at all times" says a very positive Samandam
“My father was against me joining this profession as the income was very low during his time. Even today we barely earn anything after overheads but koothu is in my blood and nothing can stop me”

With the number of takers decreasing by the year, the survival of this art is under treat due to its non – commercial approach, popularity of cinema and other forms of dance, disinterested patrons. With the lack of marketing strategies and inability to reach larger audience, this form of art is in dire need of some 'koothu' to reinstate it in all its glory.

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.