July 13, 2020

Thilagavathy Palani on Kattai Kuttu and her inspiring mother

This is a very unique story on Mums and stories.

Meet Thilagavathi Palani, a Kattai Kuttu dancer who now lives in Chennai. Thilagavathi is a young woman from Kanchipuram and from a background that has had her family witness struggling years of poverty.
But a passion that she has embraced in life has made her communicate with the world at ease, travel the country and outside and give an identity to herself.

Among a lot of people she thinks she has to credit her mother Parimala who stood by her when she was growing up and ensured she continued to learn the art form which was otherwise a male dominated form.
“My parents and I being the eldest of four siblings had never travelled outside the small city of Kanchipuram. I could finish my studies through open schooling and have studied from Kattai Kuttu Sangam.

It is an art form, a theater-dance-drama performance that has transformed me as an individual. The entire neighbourhood and the elders in the family were keen that I give up this art form that I had picked up during my childhood days.

But I can’t thank enough of my mother who perhaps understood that I wanted to pursue this art form under every circumstance.

I began learning with the guru ‘P Rajagopal’ and after a few years have now moved to work with an organization and my work has now introduced me to people from abroad and I can speak in English fluently, communicate well, travel and most importantly live independently. I don’t get to see my mother very often, she stays with my family in my hometown, but I understand the sentiments of the background and upbringing she has had and where the world is moving ahead. It is a stark difference in viewing life but I am glad to have found this space for myself. I dream of becoming a Kattai kuttu director someday.

I don’t want to get married and am happy what I am doing. Through NGO’s and schools I also get to interact with little children where I talk through the rural art form importance on hygiene, cleanliness and even sexual abuse, topics that are left untouched by the society. The art form takes a lot of effort in traditional make up and wearing the costumes.
A lot of villagers appreciate the art form but I hope more urbanites will recognize this form and give it the due credit. The performances are done overnight beginning from 10 pm continuing until morning. It isn’t easy but I just love what I am doing. We perform on various tales from Ramayana, Mahabharata and on tales from Shiva-Parvathi. I am glad among a lot of people my mother was there for me and she believes in what I do.”

Mums and stories wishes to thank Thilagavathi Palani for sharing her story us and wish her all the very best in life.


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