Enlarging the space for Koodiyattom
The one-day Koodiyattom fete in Kottayam was an occasion to deliberate on the theory and practice of this art form.
NARRATING TIMELESS TALES: `Baalivadhom' depicts the battle between Baali and Sugriva.
Among the classical performing arts of Kerala, Koodiyattom still seems to be the least popular. There are seemingly simple and complex causes contributing to the esoteric status of Koodiyattom. From 1965, Koodiyattam has been part of the curriculum of Kerala Kalamandalam. It was the late Painkulam Rama Chakiyar who first felt the need for institutionalising this highly evolved Sanskrit theatre tradition. While providing a secular dimension to this 1,000-year-old drama, Rama Chakiyar took up the task of reforming the art form in order to bring it closer to audiences outside the temples.
The one-day Koodiyattom festival of Kerala Kalamandalam at the Baselius College Auditorium, Kottayam, with the support of UNESCO-Japan Funds Trust and Malayala Manorama, upheld the mission of the late Aacharya in its true spirits. The festival opened with a cultural function. Pothiyil Parameswara Chakiyar, the nonagenarian Koodiyattam artiste, was honoured on the occasion.
In the symposium that followed, poet and writer D. Vinayachandran spoke about the historical origin of Chakiyar, attributing the content of his verbal acting to a creative assimilation of the same from the prevailing folk-ritual traditions. V.C. Harris presented a paper on the structure of Koodiyattom. E.N.Narayanan analysed the angika and vaachika in Koodiyattom and placed the former in relation to the linguistic connotations of the latter. Koothu artiste, P.N.N. Chakiyar talked in detail on the form and content of the verbal acting of the Vidooshaka with a tinge of humour.
In the late afternoon, Painkulam Damodara Chakiyar, nephew of the renowned Rama Chakiyar, presented Koothu. With his characteristic ease, Damodara Chakiyar gave a detailed description of the battle between Rama and Ravana. In the `Kamsavadhom Nangiarkoothu,' that followed, Usha Nangiar proved her enviable acting calibre coupled with a passionate involvement in characterisation. The entry of Krishna and Balarama into the court of Kamsa, their confrontation with the mighty elephant, Kuvalayapeedom, and the reactions of the courtiers to the unbelievable turn of events found eloquent expression through the precisely executed hand gestures, posture, and eye-movements of Usha.
`Baalivadhom,' enacted by the veteran actors of Kalamandalam Koodiyattom troupe was one of the major attractions of that evening. The simultaneous entry of Sugriva, Hanuman, Srirama and Lakshmana on stage was a delightful spectacle.
Painkulam Rama Chakiyar as Sugriva impressively portrayed the character's persistent agony and the unanticipated ray of hope in the form of Rama and Lakshmana. The disciplined movements and an impassioned identification with the character made the presentation of Rama Chakiyar memorable. Kalamandalam Sivan Nambudiri as Baali was fluent in his interpretation of the money-king's conceit and bragging before his wife Thara. The background music by Kalamandalam Easwaranunni, Hariharan and Achuthanandan on the mizhavu and Varasani Narayanan Nambudiri on the edaykka built a swara-structure brimming with subtle bhava and laya.
The one-day festival re-emphasized the need to explore more and more public space for ensuring the continued existence and development of this sole extant form of traditional Sanskrit theatre.
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