Honeymoon Couples and Jurassic Babies

Identity and Play in Chennai’s Post-Independence Sabha Theater

By Kristen Rudisill

Subjects: Performing Arts, Anthropology, Asian Studies, India And South Asian Studies, Postcolonial Studies
Hardcover : 9781438489759, 342 pages, October 2022
Paperback : 9781438489766, 342 pages, April 2023

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations
Note on Transliteration

Introduction: Discovering Sabha Theater


1. The Space of the Sabha: Art Patronage and the Reinforcement
of Taste in Chennai

2. Brahmin Humor: Caste Politics and the Rise of Sabha Comedies

3. The Amateur Aesthetic: Two or Three People Just Standing
on Stage


4.Wedding in Washington: Performance of Brahmin Culture

5. Honeymoon Couple and Jurassic Baby: Belonging and Respect

6. Husband or Servant? Masquerade and Middle-Class Identity

7. Blurred Genres: Tamil Brahmins as Indian Intellectuals

Epilogue: Following Trends: The Future of Sabha Theater


Contextualizes Sabha Theatre historically, politically, and aesthetically, revealing how it expresses a Tamil Brahmin identity that is at once traditional and modern.


Honeymoon Couples and Jurassic Babies is the first in-depth study of Sabha Theater, a type of Tamil-language popular theater that started in Chennai (Madras) in the period following India's independence, thriving especially between 1965 and 1985. Breaking new ground in the study of stage and performance, this interdisciplinary book presents a complex view of a significant genre, using historical research and ethnographic information obtained through interviews with performers, writers, and audience members, as well as observations of rehearsals, performances, and television and film shootings. This careful coverage not only contextualizes Sabha Theatre historically, politically, and aesthetically within the wider history of the Tamil stage and a performance scene that includes classical dance and mass media but also reveals how its plays express a Tamil Brahmin identity that is at once traditional and modern. Analyzing what particular plays mean to the specific, urban, elite Brahmin community that produces and consumes them, Kristen Rudisill examines humor that reveals a complex Brahmin identity and surveys markers of moral superiority.

Kristen Rudisill is Professor of Popular Culture and Director of the Asian Studies Program at Bowling Green State University.