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Karnatik Kattaikkuttu is probably the first-ever collaboration between two distinct art forms: Karnatik music, the classical music of South India, and Kattaikkuttu, a Tamil language-based, physical and vocal form of rural open-air ensemble theatre with an inherent capacity for comedy and social comment. Although there were cultural and artistic links between the two in the past, today these two forms occupy opposite ends of a spectrum that divides the Indian performing arts into “classical” and “folk”.

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This unique collaboration was initiated and conceptualized by legendary Kattaikkuttu actor, playwright and director Perungattur P. Rajagopal and his wife Hanne M. de Bruin (performing arts scholar, dramaturg & costume designer) in collaboration with the well-known Karnatik musicians TM Krishna and Sangeetha Sivakumar. As many as thirteen actors and musicians of the Kattaikkuttu Sangam in Kanchipuram are also part of the production.

Karnatik Kattaikkuttu is an experimental production in which Karnatik concert music and Kattaikkuttu theatre collaborate on an equal footing. The production explores what both forms share, where they differ and how they “speak” to and with each other. In an exhilarating exchange of repertoire elements, Karnatik and Kattaikkuttu performers present excerpts from two all-night plays, Disrobing of Draupadi and The Eighteenth Day.

At its center, the performance also features an unprecedented musical dialogue between TM Krishna and P. Rajagopal. They reflect on the different perceptions of Karnatik music, Kattaikkuttu, the social and caste-based differences that separate them, the nature and role of language and the artistic intricacies that define both forms.

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