Chennai and Tamil Nadu
Maestro of Thayambaka
Pookkattiri Divakara Poduwal redefined the performance format of Thayambaka.
Mesmerising beats: Pookkattiri Divakara Poduwal’s was sensitive to laya.
A handful of consummate Thayambaka players vied with one another in the late twentieth century to carve a niche for themselves in their chosen artistic field. Stage presence and grace simplified the task for two of the artistes – Pallavoor Appu Marar and Pookkattiri Divakara Poduwal. Pallavoor Appu Marar passed away many years ago and recently, Pookkattiri Divakara Poduwal breathed his last. Poduwal’s death has cast a shadow on the strength of classicism in Thayambaka.
Divakara Poduwal hails from a family of temple percussionists. Trained under his uncles, Divakaran could imbibe the traditional discipline of Thayambaka that was structured by the Malamakkavu School of west Palakkad. He got plenty of opportunities to listen to and participate in the Thayambaka recitals of stalwarts like Thiruvegappura Rama Poduwal and Thrithala Kesavan.
Other accomplished players such as Thrithala Kunhikrishna Poduwal and Aalipparambil Sivarama Poduwal showed Divakaran the rigour and dynamism of the Malamakkavu School.
As the product of a period that was dictated by hard-core traditionalism, it took a while for Divakara Poduwal to begin redefining the performance format of Thayambaka.
The structural elegance of the key components of Thayambaka – Pathikaalam, Kooru, Itavattom, Itanila and Irikita – found their fullest expression in Divakaran’s performance. His nerkol and urulukai always had a hypnotic effect on the listeners.
Although he played Adantha kooru in the slow tempo once in a while, it was never his style. Panchari and Chemba Koorus, the high points of the Malamakkavu tradition, were the segments that saw Divakara Poduwal pose a challenge to many of his peers and predecessors. There was a complexity in his ennams in these two segments while his manodharmams were crisp but distinct from those of his colleagues.
His command over the four tempos in the varying rhythmic scales showed his sensitivity to laya. Poduwal was one among a small group of percussionists who were well-conversant with the ritual functions of music within the temple, both at the theoretical and practical levels.
Divakara Poduwal’s involvement in his performance was evident and visible as each beat was reflected on his expressive face. For him, each recital was an act of enjoyment and self-realisation. He never offered the audience a ready-made Thayambaka sans creativity. His chappu, pothu, nakaram and dhimkaram were supported by his mind too.
Yet, Poduwal could not win the recognition he deserved owing to his temperamental nature. His eccentricity was evident in his approach to and treatment of the art form. Poduwal refused to play to the gallery and his serious mien prevented even his admirers from reading his feelings.
Kalloor Ramankutty Marar, while paying homage to his colleague, aptly summed up Poduwal’s personality. “People have generally misjudged this great Thayambaka player as haughty and arrogant. But those who were close to him know that Poduwal was forthright in his attitudes.”
The demise of this maestro has enfeebled Kerala’s heritage of indigenous music.
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Chennai and Tamil Nadu