Meet Thangavel Ramalingam, who has been on a mission to revive one of the oldest art forms in Tamil Nadu known as ‘Therukuthu’.

Rajinis next Kabali will feature the on-screen debut of this inspiring folk artist
Features Tuesday, September 01, 2015 - 17:38

He is not an actor with any screen presence. He has always been behind the screen and not many know his story. But now, he is emerging from the background, all set to work for Superstar Rajinikanth’s upcoming movie ‘Kabali’.

Meet Thangavel Ramalingam, who has been on a mission to revive one of the oldest art forms in Tamil Nadu known as ‘Therukuthu’. 

Hailing from a lesser known village called Peravur in Villipuram district, Ramalingam has served as an Art director in ten Tamil films.

From ‘Attaikathhi’, ‘Vadacurry’ to ‘Madras’ – Ramalingam, has several achievements to flaunt in the Tamil film industry circles but what makes him proud is the fact that he has been instrumental in reviving the age old art of ‘Therukuthu’ in his village.

Peravur village once known as the hub of Tamil folk art has now vanished from the art map of India. Hailing from a family that was into folk art for generations together, Ramalingam, a student from the Government Fine Arts College in Chennai forayed into the world of cinema. Today, he has got a golden opportunity of working with one of the legends of Tamil cinema Superstar Rajnikanth - a chance that many in the industry long for.  

But for Ramalingam, street play has been his passion and first love. He says “today the purest form of folk art is vanishing.”  He has revived his family run ‘Sri Muthalamman Nadaga Sabah’ a street folk art troupe named after his community god.  Inspired by his father Thangavel, who was a veteran folk artist, Ramalingam’s aim is to create awareness among the youth on the rich heritage of dramas.

Many in his village Peravur have quit performing on the streets as they consider performing folk art on the streets to be demeaning. Ramalingam however, wants to prove them wrong and send across a message that it’s not something to be ashamed of. It is an art form which is his identity and more than that - his pride.

"After entering into the Tamil film industry I have become quite famous in my village and all I want to do is use my popularity to give a new lease of life for ‘Therukuthu’," says Ramalingam.

Ramalingam, has been quite successful in his endeavor. After the re-launch, his troupe ‘Sri Muthalamman Nadaga Sabha’ has been getting huge response in and around his village - so much so that a new troupe is getting ready to compete with his team.

With Northern Tamil Nadu being gripped by caste politics and clashes, the youth seem to be getting drawn towards divisive politics. "I want them to focus on enhancing their skills. I want them to focus on education and folk art - all of which is our culture, tradition and identity," says Ramalingam.

Two months ago when he first performed on the streets after several years, Ramalingam couldn’t control his emotions. It was a ‘dream come true’ moment for him. He says, “I consider this the biggest achievement in my life. Even bigger than being identified as an art director.”

The post was published in Shabbir Ahmed's blog. Shabbir is a television journalist based in Chennai.

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