NOSTALGIA – KATHAKALI IN MY GROWING YEARS
(A passage from Temples to a dreamy Garden City)
(Rema Prasanna Pisharody)
Kathakali the traditional classical art form is associated with element Sky and like the infinite sky it is difficult a task to write it down in words. Apart from the elemental classification, Kathakali is very earthen an art form; there the natural elegance, a kind of celestial charm and one can easily find the vibrant fire, mystical earth, flowing water, life saving air and vastness of a sky in this magical art form.
It is a fact that I need to travel back to my childhood to write about Kathakali. My childhood adventures with Kathakali began at a tender age with my father Manganam Ramapisharody, a trained Kathakali Artist. It is during my school days that I watched Kathakali Plays along with my father in my paternal hometown, Kottayam in Kerala.
The sound of Shuddha Maddalam and Keli mesmerized me and somewhere I felt in my heart that I could associate with this art form. My father accompanied his Guru Manganam Krishnapilla Asan on various temple stages. Krishnapilla Asan had a Kaliyogam (Costume Unit). As a child I was fascinated with the huge wooden box in which the costumes were stored and the gold-foil covered wooden ornaments players adorned. In my father’s ancestral home I have seen kathakali artists assembling during kathakali seasons. Later with the guidance of Vennimala Rama Varrier (Maddalam Artist), Ayaamkudi Kuttappa Marar (Chenda Artist), Pallam Madhavan (Kathkali Singer), formed Sreekalanilayam, a Kathakali Training Centre in Sree Narasimha Swamy Temple Premises of our Manganam Village. Vennimala Rama Varrier’s son Ramachandra Varrier (Kalayanilayam Babu) later joined Kalanilayam, Irinjalakuda. He is a well known Maddalam (percussion) Artist and recipient of Sangeetha Nataka Academy Award and Kamalamndalam Award of 2013.
During the year 1974, in Kottayam a Kathakali Club was formed named Kaliyarangu to promote Kathakali. It is there in Kaliyarangu i started knowing more about Kathakali in detail as all the members received a printed synopsis of the play before an event. Kaliarangu brought on stage the stalwarts of Kathakali of that time and several well known artists from all over Kerala performed there. Club worked on a simple but straight format that members watched 12 Kathakali shows and a grand annual event. My father played regularly there. Famous Kathakali singer Hyderali and Artist Kottakal Appu Namboothiri were regulars in Kalaiarangu. I remember even today a brilliant Karnasapatham enacted by Mathur Govindan Kutty and Kalamandalam Karunakaran as Kunthi and Karnan respectively. I consider fortunate to listen a vibrant Thayambaka and Melappadam by legends Shri Kalamandalam Krishnakutty Poduval and Shri. Appukutty Poduval in Kaliarang. It is a fact that Shri Pallam Chandran’s contribution as Secretary of Kaliarang for four decades from its inception in 1974 speaks volumes.
It humbles me that i need a lifetime or more to write about Kathakali. What I know about Kathakali is very little and as an admirer I know I enjoyed each and every moment I spent in my childhood with Kathakali and amazed at the way players performed on stage and brought forward Eras with such great ease. Kathakali I know has grown from its restricted shell form to a universal format. It is great to know that people outside Kerala are also contributing a lot for this Art form. I know there no stoppage for a divine art when it is promoted with utmost sincerity.
From God’s own country to Garden city, there the sky brings an elemental charm for Kathakali; Nostalgic...