When mythological and social dramas made their appearance in the early decades of the twentieth century, the female roles were mostly played by men. In folk theatre too, men played important female characters. Given below are the photographs of some male actors dressed as women. Women have also played the male roles, specially in folk theatre and some of those photographs are also given below.
K.S. Ananthanarayanan was a professional theatre artiste in the Tamil theatre in the twenties and thirties. He had a drama troupe of his own called the Arya Gana Sabha in Madurai. The photographs above were taken in Karnatic Studio, Madras, 1931/ 32.
K. Mahadev and Narayan Naidu and Ramachandra Rao were actors in the theatre company of the legendary theatre personality in Kannada theatre, Gubbi Veeranna. These photographs were collected from the albums of Gubbi Veeranna’s daughter, Malathamma.
In folk theatre, men still play female roles. In the Kongu region of Tamilnadu, there are certain folk plays which are performed, of the legendary heroes of the region. Ponnar-Sankar is one such play. In the photograph above, two men are playing the roles of women in the play. On the left is Gopal and on the right is Raju in a crucial scene. This photograph was taken a few months ago in a demonstration performance.
There are many women who do both male and female roles in folk theatre. Given below are a few photographs of K. R. Ambika who has been doing male roles from the age of eleven and who continues to enact male roles even now at the age of 65. These photographs were taken during a recent demonstration performance given by her in a village in Karur district. The last photograph is of her father who was famous for playing female roles.