I remember my mom yelling at my sister and me when we were playing pillow fight in our Calcutta Army Quaters.She used to say Enna Koothu panni vatchirukkanga parunga ? which essentially meant Why on earth you guys are playing havoc on house? . Koothu , Literally meant , NOT havoc but STREET PLAY.My cousin who is 10 year old still uses the word Koothu though he hardly knows the meaning of it .I am one among the lucky few of the new generation kids who have actually seen Koothu. Koothu is actually known as Theru-Koothu which means STREET-PLAY.
I faintly remember the Koothu artists dancing in their highly ornate clothing in front of my Grandpa’s house in my village ,Alakkudi, the place where we used to spend our summer vacation every year.It was probably about Ramayana because the protagonist was blue-clad and was wearing a wooden chappal and having a bow.The whole show was happening at midnight.There was one more thing which I remember, a Monkey-Man , most probably Hanuman climbing a ladder,which the village people were refering as Maram Yerurathu(Climbing tree in Tamil).For some reason the whole event was called as Maram Yerurathu. I doubt if there is any reference or anecdote of the Indian Monkey God climbing a Tree in the Ramayana.I am not sure but it could be a local version(yes Alakkudi version) of Ramayana which is basically a village of Toddy farmers(who are skilled coconut tree climbers).The next time when I came close to Koothu was after 15 years later,when we were in our village during the Kumbabhisekam of central temple ,which was the only occasion left now when Koothu was performed.I was all excited to watch this event which every one was callin Maram Yerurathu.But my Grandpa stricly refused to allow me to watch the event.He said it happens at night and that we have very less well wishers left in the village due to land disputes.I couldn’t see the event but went in the morning (early morning) to receive the prasadam (sweets) from the actors.I missed the Koothu.
The next Koothu would be after 12 years when the next Kumbabhishekam will be done.I seriously doubt that.Following is a short-film on Koothu Artist which got a National Award.
Following is a collection of videos of real Koothu that happened and still happens (rarely though) in villages
Koothu played a crucial role in freedom struggle during the pre-independence era for spreading the message.Following is a tribute to a great folk-art by Actor Dr.Kamal Haasan in the movie Anbe Sivam