This image of a street theatre artist is shot by Indian photographer Abul Kalam Azad in Tamil Nadu. Koothu or Therukoothu is an ancient art, where artists play songs with dance and music in storytelling the epics. Performed in Tamil, it is a folk art form originated from the Sangam-era (3rd century BCE to 3rd century CE) Tamil country, a loosely held territory that includes a majority of present South Indian States and Northern parts of Sri Lanka. Koothu is an informal dance structure, in which performances generally depict scenes from ancient epics such as Ramayana, Mahabharata and Tamil classical epics. There is traditionally no spoken dialogue, only songs. Artists are trained to sing in their own voice and in a high pitch to reach the entire crowd, since no amplification technology is used. The artists are dressed up with complex heavy costumes and have a very bright elaborated makeup. They put on towering head dresses, sparkling shoulder plates and wide colorful skirts. Traditionally, this theatre form has been predominantly male, though in modern times more females have been included.

Theru Koothu, 2013

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  • Abul Kalam Azad is an Indian visual artist and photographer based in Kerala. His works are largely personal explorations and documentation of experiences, and memories of his native land, people, and their culture. They deal with issues of identity, ethics, micro/macro history, and eroticism. His works have exhibited Nationally/Internationally in reputed museums and galleries. He has received Charles Wallace Award in the year 1996 and recognized by the French government through a scholarship grant. He is a recipient of grants from the Government of India and India Foundation for the Arts (IFA). He is the founder of Ekalokam Trust for Photography and Editor-in-chief of PhotoMail Online magazine.