Department of Cultural Affairs, Government of Kerala

The Heyday of Malaylam Drama

When the history of Malayalam drama literature is analysed, it can be clearly seen that the 1940s and 1950s have witnessed the birth of dramas that were structurally and creatively excellent. Actually, such dramas had started turning up by the end of the 1930s itself. Calvaryile Kalpapadapam written by Kainikkara Padmanabha Pillai is a typical example.

Influence of western writing is quite visible in the dramas of the 1940s. The Swedish playwright Henrik Ibsen, whose works made a strong impact in theatre across the world, influenced Malayalam drama also significantly. It was an era of change across the world, caused by the rise of worldviews like Marxism, Socialism, and Humanism, which attracted large sections of people in many countries. Dramatists like Ibsen who wrote in that environment, viewed drama as a serious, socially relevant art and not as something with a high entertainment value. This attitude of dramatists to their creations seems to have persuaded Malayalam writers to take a different approach to what they wrote. This can be clearly seen in the works of N. Krishna Pillai such as Bhagna Bhavanam, Balabalam, Kanyaka, and Anuranjanam.

Many dramatists later traveled through the path laid out by N. Krishna Pillai.  They include G. Sankara Pillai’s Sneha Doothan, C. N. Sreekantan Nair’s Nashta Kachavadam, K. Surendran’s Bali, Pulimana Parameswara Pillai’s Samathwavadi, Kainikkara Padmanabha Pillai’s Yavanika and Agni Panjaram, C. J. Thomas’s Aa Manushyan Nee Thanne, Avan Veendum Varunnu; T. N. Gopinathan Nair’s Pookkari, Pratidhwani, and Akavum Puravum, Edasseri Govindan Nair’s Koottukrishi; M. Govidan’s Nee Manushyane Kollaruthu; S. L. Puram Sadanandan’s Oral Kooti Kallanayi; Eroor Vasudev’s Jeevitham Avasanikkunnilla; Thikkodiyan’s wrote Jeevitham, K.T. Mohammad, Thoppil Bhasi, P. Kesavadev, Cherukatu, Ponkunnam Varkey, Karoor Neelakanta Pillai, and Nagavalli R. S. Kurup who moved ahead of their time.

Kerala People’s Arts Club, popularly known as KPAC, is a theatre movement that arose as part of the activities of the Communist Party of Kerala. The contributions of KPAC enriched Malayalam drama beyond measure. The staging of the drama Ningalenne Communistakki, written by Thoppil Bhasi, turned out to be a historic event.

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