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Stories for all times

VINU VASUDEVAN

Chakyarkoothu by Ramanchakyar entertained the audience with its characteristic mix of humour and satire.

Chakyarkoothu used to be a staple of temple festivals. The art form, which was once a monopoly of Chakyar families in Kerala, might fade into oblivion if steps are not taken to restore it to its pride of place.

Fans of Chakyarkoothu got an opportunity to see a performance at Vylloppilli Samskriti Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram. It was presented by Margi Ramanchakyar, an up-and-coming artist.

Hailing from a Chakyar family, Ramanchakyar did his early training under stalwarts like Ammanoor Madhava Chakyar, Parameswara Chakyar and Kochukuttan Chakyar.

Each performance of Chakyarkoothu depends on the performer's ability to relate his story to contemporary events and people. This is also the strength of the art form.

Artistic licence

A skilful performer often used his platform to question, criticise and ridicule the actions of the rich and the influential. Artistic licence enabled the performer to get away with caustic comments and satire. The humour and the satire were two aspects that drew people to the art form.

Ramachakyar did not let down the small audience. After the customary `Vidooshaka Sthobham,' he entertained them by presenting `Ganapathy Prathal' (Lord Ganapathy's breakfast).

With humourous remarks and comments, the story narrates how a proud King Vysravana was humbled by Ganesha. It began with the king travelling to Kailas to offer Lord Shiva a bunch of bananas. However, a hungry Ganapathy eats the bananas. The bananas do not satiate him and so the king invites him for breakfast.

Ganapathy devours the banquet and asks for more, putting an end to Vysravana's boastful claim. He ably utilised the opportunities in the story situation to draw an analogy with some present-day politicians who also tend to forget their electorate once they taste power. Some of his comments amused the audience.

However, Raman feels that opportunities for Koothu artistes are diminishing. "There are a number of young artists, but there are no programmes for all of us," he says.

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