Aishwarya Rao

Chennai is probably not the only one, but it is definitely most popular for the diametric dance forms it nurtures. On one hand is the classical dance Bharathanatyam and on the other is the korava (nomads) dance Dappankuthu, both enjoying a celebrated status. With its racy and uninhibited style Dappa (Tamil for a tin can) Koothu (feverish celebration) has an authentic Tamil flavor to it. Track back to the song Maana Madurai’ in Minsara Kanavu where Prabu Deva and co. dance to some irresistible Saavu Koothu (funeral dance) beats and that is exactly what I am referring to. In a city like Chennai that is tight rope walking to manage its traffic, crowds in a 'Dappakuthu' frenzy leading a wedding or funeral procession is still a common sight!

A madichukattified (tied so as to reveal thighs) lungi (A garment, usually checked, worn around the torso by South Indian men), a foot-tapping 'Gaana Paatu' (Koothu Song), the rhythmic whistle, occasional steps amidst idupa odachyfying (skewed hip shakes that will put Shakira to shame!), mandatory pelvic thrusts, a beer bottle and a poo malai (garland). For the uninitiated the above are typical characteristics of the Dappankuthu.

And since cinema is a reflection of reality, Kollywood is full of these numbers, thanks to music director Deva who pioneered an entire genre of racy and infectious 'Gaana’ numbers.

My earliest memory of Dappa-Gaana double treat is ‘Lalaku Dol Dabhi Mafrom the movie Suryan and the mesmerizing Rakkama Kaya Thatu from Dalapathi. Add Vasool Raja's 'Seena Thana' to the list and you can come up with certain Dappankuthu standard. Here goes - the leading lady must wear a bust hugging kutti (small) backless blouse (yechuchme, apdina adhu kerchief aache!), an umbrella paavadai (knee length skirt) compulsorily revealing the belly button and one ribbon like duppata loosely swung on her shoulders. We don’t care much about the men except that a kerchief (no we are not taking about the lady's blouse!) must be tied around their necks. What follows is some assal (authentic) koothu, with hip, butt and every other shake that is possible!

Yet another traditional Dappakuthu ritual is including the Holy Lord in the scheme of things. Prabu Deva starrer 'Yappa Yappa Aiyappa' and 'Thirupathi Ezhumale Venkatesa' are classic examples of the secular nature of the dance. While Deva introduced 'Gaana Paatu' in modern Kollywood, Prabu Deva kick-started a whole new generation of Koothu dances with ‘Peta Rap’, ‘Kaathu Adikuthu’ and the much enjoyed ‘Kasu Mela’!

Hold on, while a racy number is only a rule, exceptions to this rule can also be classified as konacham (little) slow koothu. The latest ‘Vazahameen’ (see picture) that took the city by rage is set in a less feverish pace but is absolutely realistic nevertheless. So is Tippu'-sung ‘Kapakalangu with key Dappa Bashai like ‘aithalaka’ which had men and women dancing with folded tongues and performing slow motion Dappa scenes!

A probably more refined form of Dappa was ‘Manmatha Rasa’ where Dhanush danced in an unparalleled frenzy (thala kaal puriyama)! These are modern numbers where the women dressed in trousers (tight blouse remains a constant) give soooper competition to their male leads. Vijay and Simran in 'Aal thota Bhoopathi', Chimbu and Jyothika in 'En Aasai Mythiliye' are probably the much remembered duo Dappa performances! Not to forget the best of them being Vijay and Trisha in 'Apdi Podu' which to date remains the peppiest koothu scene in Kollywood.

Then there are Dappa-Gaana combos like ‘O-Podu’ which surpassed all standards in energy levels! Several Vikram and Vijay starrers like ‘Kalyanam thaan’ and ‘Kai Kai Kai’ come very close yet don’t make it because of the order and coordinated dance movements. Remember, we are talking about Dappankuthu here where there is no restrain, only racy refreshment! Namma Dappankuthu, Semma soooodu machi!!!

28 Responses
  1. sagaro Says:

    so much knowledge at one time... manda kolambuthu

  2. u missed kuduva meesai from dhool adu sooper energy,

    kummi adi from SIL also nalla energy and dappan koothu.

  3. avronea Says:

    di...idhukku thaan ketiya? i was trying my imagination to figure how the input would help in branding!

  4. nee soooooooper goggiee !!! yen akka aache !!!!!!!!

  5. nee dancingla queen dhan po....but u fgot one little detail,u didnt descbribe the dance form which yesteryear hero's perfected basically the dance form perfected by MGR and Ramarajan

  6. Sandeep Says:

    hey..nice blog.u from psbb?? i'm from batch of 99.also quite the marketing freak.and don't believe that classical conditioning is the only reason for the male female behavioral differences.and yes, kamal rules:)

  7. Siri Says:

    very good blog! I hope u have published this post under "Education" tag coz thats what it is :)....

  8. Hey,
    Fantastic post! I'm a big fan of such koothu songs in Tamil cinema.
    Hope you don't mind me linking u on my blog.

  9. sagaro - nee engineer from anna univ aache. idhuellam easy ya dhaane irukanum.

  10. Vatsan

    Oho! I did. Sathiyama epdi skip aachunu theriyale.Will add it in my dissertation! lol

  11. Ranji- Neengalam ennoda sample for primary research. Mikka nandri.

  12. Di Achi - Nee poi padi. inga enna panindiruke?

  13. Er Ashwin - Infact I like the way Ramarajan dances Karagaatam and MGR in Nan Alai Ittal..enna aatum gr.haha..but i am not sure its anywhere close to koothu.koothuku dance aadanume!

  14. Siri - Lol!!!

  15. Sandeep - Yep I am from PSBB. Batch of 2001. Kamal rocks Yay!

  16. @ Durga and Michael - Thanks :-)

  17. Jinguchakka Says:

    All the songs you mention has percussion commanding the pace. Melodies may soothe, but beat is hard to beat!

  18. shiva Says:

    A very well researched topic. Especially for NRTs like me.

    It's a pity that when the ignorant eyes of North Indians happen to watch it on Sun TV, they see it as a sleaze cum comedy performance.



  19. Sriram Says:

    Was simply amazed by the way, you network with people. initially I didn't mind much for yours, but found many people linking to your's and hence gave a shot. It's quite surprising and impressive to see people blogging things apart from work. Good Luck !!!

    sriram.parthasarathy at gmail dot com

  20. Shiva,

    How appropriately said! But I give to them. After all you dont expect much from people who think all South Indians are Madrasis!

  21. Ram Says:

    You know how college tours are among the highlights of college life right? Well, I enjoyed deciding on the "music" for our tours - and that was a collection if there ever was one! Boy, it would first start with some soothing, auspicious Ayyapa song (we travelled in a bus, most of the time) and then, well, all hell would break loose! :) Whenever I hear a koothu song nowadays I keep thinking how we missed having it in college.

    On the other hand, I was in San Diego a few weeks back and there we were, five people crammed in a old Toyota at 1:00 AM, going home after a late dinner - singing, twisting and doing the vallipu dance to Appadi Podu on full volume :) Somehow nothing can come close to letting loose to a good ol' gana!

    Great post!


  22. Sooper analysis on dappankoothu! Nee pesama research paper ezhudhalaam!

    Random Access
    The search has just begun !!!

  23. shiva Says:


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  24. shiva Says:


    who shot your new profile pic. By the way, it's nice.



  25. rskumaran Says:

    Pulli rani yen Pulli raza ..iccha .. manmatha raza patta miss pannitiga ? That was sooper dooper hit .

  26. This should be made a wikipedia article.

    Great stuff!

  27. Nandhu Says:

    dont ya think it's high time u wrote another block?

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