It is important to know about Kootiyaattam before learning about Koothu. Kootiyaattam is the staging of Sanskrit plays. The acting is in such detail that one act of a play is enacted during several days. There can be one or more characters on the stage at a time. The language is either Sanskrit or the colloquial part of it spoken by the common people. The male roles are played by men from the Chakyar family and the female roles by women from the Nambiar family(Nangiar). Men from the same Nambiar family play the accompanying drum music, called Mizhavu, sitting at the back of the stage. One or two Nangiars sit on the side of the stage and keep the rhytm using small symbals called Kuzhitthaalam. They also chant or sing Sanskrit verses as required in the context in various Ragas. The characters have dance sequences at various points in the play. But, the stress is on acting and experts say that there is no other performing art form which can match the intricate acting of Chakiyars.
Normally the term Koothu indicates Chakiyar Koothu which is story telling. Jesters (Vidooshaka) in Kootiyaattam elaborate some points in the main play by telling stories from epics or folk tales in plain Malayalam. Chakiyars are extremely humorous in their presentation and yet the stories are highly educative in content. Nambiars play on Mizhavu and Nangiars chant Slokas as in Kootiyattam. The costume in Kootiyaattam resembles that in Kathakali, but, that in Koothu is different and is meant to bring out the character of a jester.
Koothu at the Peruvanam temple is (Anguleeyankam) Kootiyaattam on the first 10 days. It is Koothu for the rest of the days except for the last two which is, again, Kootiyaattam. It is Vasanthaka, one of the ministers of Udayana, who comes as Vidooshaka in Manthrankam. Every word he speaks and every expression of his have relevance to the tactics he and the other ministers are employing to rescue the king from the enemy’s prison.