Kadhaprasangam, literally meaning story telling performance, is a popular performing art form of Kerala, India. It combines the techniques of speaking, acting, and singing to present a story. There will be no costumes, make-up, or settings. The main artist, Kaadhikan would tell the story, act, and sing directly before the audience with two or three accompanying artists in the background playing the orchestra.
The duration is usually between 1½ to 2 hours. It originated from an earlier art form Harikadhakalakshepam which used similar techniques but differed in theme and style. While Harikadhakalakshepam was based on themes from puranas and epics, Kadhaprasangam received themes from a variety of sources largely classical and popular literature. The scripts can be original works written for the performance or adaptations of stories from epics, classical, or modern literature. William Shakespeare's Othello, Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, Kumaran Asan's Karuna, Vallathol Narayana Menon's Magdalana Mariyam, Changampuzha Krishna Pillai's Ramanan, Thirunalloor Karunakaran's Rani and Vayalar Ramavarma's Aaayisha were some of the literary classics thus successfully adapted for Kadhaprasangam.
Kadhaprasangam's heyday was in the second half of 20th century and it used to attract very large crowds on temple grounds in the festival season. With the advent of the new media and changed lifestyles it lost its original audience but artists are trying to win them back by adapting the art form to the new situation. As a major means of entertainment and education for the common people Kadhaprasangam has played a role of its own in the social change of Kerala. Its chief exponents were Swami Brahmavruthan, Sathyadevan, M. P. Manmadhan, K. K. Vadhyar, P. C. Abraham, Kedamangalam Sadanandan, Joseph Kaimaparamban, V. Sambasivan, Kollam Babu, V. Harsha Kumar, Kallada V. V. Kutty and several other prominent figures. They contributed much to the development of social and educational renaissance in Kerala history. Soon after 1975, Kadhaprasangam started declining and it could not cope with the then fast and easily comprehensible drama and movies.
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