A bold experiment in political theater in Kerala
, KPAC (Kerala People's Arts Club) was founded in 1950. It was the brainchild of a group of youngsters - G Janardhana Kurup, N Rajagopalan Nair and K S Rajamani - who had close ties with the undivided Communist Party of India (CPI).
'Ente Makananu Sari' (My Son is Right), in 1951, was the first drama performed by KPAC. But it was the second drama, 'Ningalenne Communistakki' (You Made Me a Communist) that launched KPAC in Kerala's cultural scene. Soon, KPAC spearheaded a powerful people's theater movement in Kerala. The play was banned by the authorities on the ground that it encouraged the people to 'rebel against the government.' Communist Party of India led a mass movement against the ban and these incidents heightened the play's popularity. After the ban, the play made history in Malayalam Theater by becoming the first play to be staged more than 10,000 times. It was staged in several cities across the country.
Soon KPAC caught the imagination of public and it started churning out plays at regular intervals mainly based on social themes. The plays especially reflected the aspirations of the downtrodden for a society free of exploitation and oppression. Along with criticizing the existing society, the plays often looked for an alternative form of society and explored the possibilities of achieving it. With its close ties with the Communist movement in Kerala, it took on the role of spreading the message of the party.
Another great attraction of the dramas of KPAC was its songs. Penned and composed by stalwarts like O N V Kurup, Vayalar Ramavarma and G Devarajan, the songs sung by KPAC Sulochana and K S George captured the soul of every listener and it still continues to mesmerize the listeners.
Some of the most gifted artists of Kerala such as M S Baburaj, K Raghavan Master, P J Antony, Kambissery Karunakaran, K P Ummer and KPAC Lalitha, to name a few, were either associated with the KPAC or began their career in it.
KPAC is based at Kayamkulam. It has two drama troupes and conducts music, dance and drama classes for students and artists. KPAC also runs the Kambissery Memorial Library and Thoppil Bhasi Memorial Theater and Auditorium at Kayamkulam.
With around 46 plays to its credit, KPAC too is facing the challenges posed by the new forms of entertainment in the country.