Perungattur P. Rajagopal: A portrait of an actor 

 A film by Sue Rees                                          To be released in Spring 2018 

The film’s main subject is Perungattur P. Rajagopal (Rajagopal) and his involvement over almost 60 years with Kattaikkuttu (or Terukkuttu), a Tamil language based form of theatre primarily located in northern and central Tamil Nadu and surrounding areas.

The theatre derives its name from the kattai ornaments; wooden head, shoulder and breast ornaments inlaid with mirrors, which are worn by the main heroic characters.

These ornamentations and the elaborate make-up that goes with it distinguish Kattaikkuttu from other theatre genres popular in Tamil Nadu and in South India.

Rajagopal co-founded the Kattaikkuttu Sangam, the union of Kattaikkuttu actors in 1990. This is a grassroots association uniting Kattaikkuttu actors and musicians across styles and regions. In 2002 he with his wife Dr. Hanne de Bruin, started the Kattaikkuttu Gurukulam (school), which is the Kattaikkuttu Sangam’s residential school.  The school was established to give students from some of the most disadvantaged communities in Tamil Nadu access to a curriculum which devotes equal time to formal education and artistic training, and empowers young people, both male and female, to make their own choices.

The documentary includes interviews with Rajagopal, documentation of performances, workshops, artistic training, and reenactment of early lessons he undertook with his father.  The footage was taken over a 13 year span.

Rajagopal is a theatre performer in the Kattaikkuttu style of theatre. He started performing at the age of 10 when he joined his father’s company. He took over the company after the death of his father in 1971. He has been performing in rural India for over fifty years and also has performed and given workshops in The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, and the United Kingdom. He is a recipient of the Kalaimamani award of the government of Tamil Nadu (2007) and the Friends of Dakshinachitra Award for lifetime achievement in the performing arts (2010).

The theatre style Kattaikkuttu (also known as Terukkuttu or Therukoothu) is a Tamil language based theatre.  It derives its name from the characteristic kattai ornaments worn by the principle male heroic characters and predominately involves overnight performances (10pm to 6am) of stories from the Mahabharata. It usually is performed on the ground level, involving specific make up and hand held curtains used to differentiate scenes and introduce a principle character.


Funded in part by:   

Bennington College Faculty Grants  Vermont Arts Council  

Funding from a Fulbright Nehru Academic & Professional Excellence Award - Research (Flex) 2016-2018 

  Kattaikkuttu Sangam and Gurukulam

Footage taken at the following locations:

Kuttu Kalai Kudam (Centre for Performing Arts), Kattaikkuttu Sangam & Gurukulam,

36, Punjarasantankal Village, Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, India 2005 to present day

Selva Vinayagar Koil Street, Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu 2005 to present day

Prithvi Theatre, Mumbai, India 2006

Kolivakkam Village , Tamil Nadu, India 2008

Onkur Village , Tamil Nadu, India 2013

Kuzhamandal Village , Tamil Nadu, India 2013

Bus Stand, Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, India 2017

Nagareeswarar Koil, Periya, Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu 2017

St Andrews Auditorium, Bandra W, Mumbai, India 2017

Brammadesam Village, Tamil Nadu, India 2018

Karivaradar Peerumal Temple, Kalavai Village, Tamil Nadu, India 2018

Raga Sudha Hall, Mylapore, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 2018

Cheyyar Town, Tamil Nadu, India

Featuring:  Perungattur P. Rajagopal Dr. Hanne de Bruin 

Actors, Musicians, Students and young professionals of the Kattaikkuttu Sangam and Gurukulam as well as the people of Tamil Nadu, India

Directed and Edited by          Sue Rees Videographer and photography                                                                 Sue Rees 

Additional  Photographs                                                              Hanne de Bruin                              Marinde Hurenkamp                                                 P.V. Jayan                                          Evelien Pullens 

Architectural Plan        Himanshu Burte

 Translations                Hanne de Bruin Transcriptions                     Cal Brackin

Footage from:

Performances, rehearsals at Kattaikkuttu Gururkulam and Sangam,

36, Punjarasantankal Village, Tamil Nadu 2005 to present day.


Performances from the 2005 Festival, Kattaikkuttu Sangam 2005

Milky Ocean, Prithvi Theatre, Mumbai 2006

Deliverance, Kattaikkuttu Sangam 2007

Dice and Disrobing, Kolivakkam Village 2008

Draupadi, Kuravanchi 2009

Karna Moksham, Aiyankarkulam Village 2010

RamaRavana, Kattaikkuttu Sangam 2012

Daksha Yagam, Onkur Village 2013

Daksha Yagam, Kuzhamandal Village 2013

Daksha Yagam, Arumivetti Village 2014

Abhimanyu, Kattaikkuttu Sangam 2017

P. Rajagopal in an excerpt from Subhadra's Marriage 2017

P. Rajagopal in an excerpt from Krishna's Embassy 2017

P. Rajagopal in an excerpt from Arjuna's tapas 2017

P. Rajagopal in an excerpt from Dice and Disrobing 2017

P. Rajagopal in an excerpt from 18th Day 2017

P. Rajagopal in an excerpt from Karna Moksham 2017

Karnatic meets Kattaikkuttu P. Rajaopal with T.M. Krishna and Sangeeta Sivakumar  Mumbai, 2017

Abhimanyu, Chennai 2018

 The Kings Sacrifice, Cheyyar Town, Tamil Nadu, India 2018

Workshops by Tentro Dimitri, Verscio, Switzerland  2008 

Workshop by Tom Bogdan, Bennington, USA 2016-2017

Workshop by Craig Lukas, London, UK 2016

Interview with P. Rajagopal, and Hanne de Bruin, Kattaikkuttu Gurukulam, Tamil Nadu, India 2006

Interview with Rustom Bharucha (director, dramaturge, writer), P. Rajagopal, Hanne de Bruin, Kattaikkuttu Gurukulam, Tamil Nadu, India 2011

Karnatic meets Kattaikkuttu. Performance with T.M. Krishna at St Andrews Auditorium, Bandra W, Mumbai, India 2017


C. Ponnusami

“When you play a dog, you have to bark like a dog...”


“You have to be able to perform a scavenger and a king…”

Sue Rees
447 Rice Ln
Bennington, VT 05201

Sue Rees is an animator, filmmaker, and set designer and has exhibited her installations and video works worldwide, and has worked collaboratively with choreographers, directors, and musicians in the United States, Europe, and India.

P. Rajagopal Chronology

1953          Born in Perungattur as son of C. Ponnucami and P. Bhagyammal

1963          Leaves elementary school to join his father’s theatre company

1971          Takes over company after his father’s death; begins performing all principal roles

1978          Combines to theatre companies and leads all performances of the Arcot Paratam, one of the most important Mahabharata Festival in the region happening once in ten years

1982          Visits Yakshagana Kendra in Udupi and realized Tamil Nadu has no school for Kattaikkuttu

1982          International tour to Italy (one month)

1987          Meets Hanne in Kalavai

1988          Starts theatre school in Perungattur (funded by Netherlands Embassy)

1989          Writes first play Enkalukkum Uyir Undu (We Also Live) for students of the Perungattur theatre school

1990          Calls upon fellow performers to come together across company and stylistic boundaries; establishment of the Kattaikkuttu Sangam in Kanchipuram (Nagariswarar Temple)

1991          First Kattaikkuttu theatre festival organized by the Sangam to show case different Kattaikkuttu styles; the festival will be repeated annually

1991          Vilayattin Vilaivu (War Games) – environmental play

1992          Pancha Bhutam (Five Elements) - all-night original story highlighting the theme of environment (in cooperation with the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation)

1994          Veriyattam allatu Tantira Kuratti (Possession or the Gypsy’s Ruse) - all-night play highlighting the viram (heroic) element of Kattaikkuttu and highlighting on various forms of veri or “madness/possession” which impede social and ecological harmony

1996          Vilvalaippu (Bending of the Bow) - all-night play in Kattaikkuttu style performed by all-women cast

1997          Mayakkutirai (Magic Horse) - children's play about power (sakti) and communication.

1998          Mahaparatam (Mahabharata) - 9 hour production of the epic Mahabharata performed by a group of 60 Kattaikkuttu actors and actresses on the occasion of the celebration of India's fifty years of independence.

2000          Curates South Indian Theatre Festival together with Hanne.  This five night-long Festival introduces wide range of Indian theatre, dance and puppetry forms—traditional, folk and contemporary—to predominantly rural audiences, but also to urban and international theatre enthousiasts

2001          Jeya Vijaya - written & produced for the 11th Kattaikkuttu Festival


2002         Parkadal (Milky Ocean) - contemporary parody in Kattaikkuttu style on the theme of the churning of the ocean performed by the Sangam’s repertory company

2002          Establishes the Kattaikkuttu Gurukulam in Kanchipuram

2005          Co-curator of South Indian Theatre Festival held in Punjarasantankal

2005          Mayakkutirai, Veriyattam & Parkadal – 90 mins versions produced for the South Indian Theatre Festival 2005 (organized by the Kattaikkuttu Sangam) and performed by the students of the Kattaikkuttu Gurukulam (then 5 to 15 years old)

2006          Inauguration of the Kuttu Kalai Kudam, the new facilities in Punjarasantankal housing the Sangam and the Gurukulam

2007          Vituttal (Deliverance) - adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore play performed at the Rabindra Utsav 2007, Kolkata

2008          Initiates Kattaikkuttu Young Professionals Company; its members are senior students and graduates of the Gurukulam

2008         Azhiyaa Cottu (Inalienable property) – produced for the Sarva Shikshya Abhiyan Program, Kanchipuram District

2010          Ulakam Ulankaiyil (The World in Your Hand – 45 minutes play to create awareness about rights with regard to mobile telephony among rural consumers (commissioned by Chennai based Consumers organization on behalf of TRAI

2011          RamaRavana (90 mins) – produced for the 2011 Ramayana Festival of Adishakti Theatre, Pondicherry

2011          Abhimanyu – original play (all-night) developed to build the repertory of the Kattaikkuttu Young Professionals Company; sponsored by the Ministry of Culture

2012          Tripurakkali – all-night extension of Vituttal, P. Rajagopal’s adaptation of a Rabindranath Tagore play; sponsored by the Ministry of Culture under the Tagore Commemoration Scheme

2013          Subhadra Kalyanam — traditional all-night play performed by the Kattaikkuttu Young Professionals

2014          Tukil – produced for “An Evening of Kattaikkuttu: Appreciating Tamil Theatre” at the Music Akademi, Chennai

2015          Draupadi Kuravanchi — produced for Shraddha and performed on 4 consecutive nights at Narada Gana Sabha, Chennai

2015          Krishna’s Embassy — produced for Urur Olcott (alternative Markazhi) Festival commissioned by T.M. Krishna

2016          Pakatai Tukil (Dice and Disrobing), all-night production adapted from the traditional play

                      Mayakkutirai (Magic Horse) by the junior students of the Kattaikkuttu Gurukulam

2017          Retake of all-night Abhimanyu (adapted and directed by P. Rajagopal)

2017          Retake of Pancha Bhutam written and directed by P. Rajagopal; performed by junior students of the Kattaikkuttu Gurukulam

2017          Kattaikkuttu performances at Delhi Public School, Pune, as part of Junoon Arts Encounters at Schools

2017          Karnatic Kattaikkuttu, experimental production in collaboration with T.M. Krishna, Sangeeta Sivakumar and their ensemble of musicians, conceptualized by P. Rajagopal and TM Krishna; Mumbai, St. Andrew’s Auditorium; produced by First Edition Arts

2018          Workshop for students of Conservatoire national supérieur d'art dramatique (CNSAD) Paris, France

2018      Last scene from Abhimanyu- produced by Urur-Olcott Kuppam Vizhaat at the Raga Sudha Hall, Mylapore, Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Commissioned by T.M. Krishna.