Department of Cultural Affairs, Government of Kerala

Modernist Malayalam Theatre

The 1970s saw the rise of experimental theatre. The main aim of this movement was to provide theoretical and practical guidance to theatre artistes to give them a direction for development. The exponents of modernist theatre like G. Sankara Pillai, S. Ramanujam, C. N. Sreekantan Nair, P. K. Venukuttan Nair, G. Aravindan, Ayyappaa Panicker, and M. V. Devan were active in this movement. The plays Poymukhangal, Ola Pambu and Kazhukanmar, written by G. Sankara Pillai were published during this period.

Towards the end of the 1960s, there was the emergence of a new style of theatre called Thanathu Nataka Vedi (Indigenous Theatre). It was focused on rejecting the influences of western theatre and incorporating more of the folk theatre traditions of Kerala. This theatre style became active in the 1970s.

The second and third dramas of C. N. Sreekantan Nair’s trilogy, visz. Saketham and Lanka Lakshmi were written during this period. So were many other outstanding plays like Bharathavakyam, Bandi, Karutha Daivathe Thedi, and Kiratham of G. Sankara Pillai; Souparnika, Velliyazhcha and Padippura of R. Narendra Prasad; Avanavan Kadamba, Daivathar and Sakshi of Kavalam Narayana Panicker; Dakshinayanam of T. P. Sukumaran; Agni, Kuchela Gadha and Varavelpu of Vayala Vasudevan Pillai; Pavam Usman of P. Balachandran; and Kadukka of P. M. Taj.

Till the 1970s, plays and playwrights were an active presence in people’s lives, and performance patterns evolved continuously. However,  the growth of theatre became sluggish since then.  Still, theatre is an art that is unlikely to come to a halt. During the 1980s and 1990s, many new writers have analyzed, reviewed, and encouraged academic experimentation in drama. Ramachandran Mokeri, Dr. S. Janardanan, M. Sajitha, Civic Chandran, P. Balachandran, Sudheer Parameswaran, K. V. Sreeja, and Jayaprakash Kuloor are some of these writers. However, we have to concede that compared to novels and short stories, the number of new plays is very few.

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