Tribute to a Master

A commemorative performance of Bhagavadajjukam will be held in the city on January 7 to mark the golden jubilee of Painkulam Rama Chakyar’s pioneering performance of Kutiyattam outside the temple premises

Published: 06th January 2015 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th January 2015 12:00 AM   |  A+A-

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Kutiyattam Kendra will organise a commemorative performance of Bhagavadajjukam to honour Painkulam Rama Chakyar, the first artist to perform Kutiyattam outside the premises of a Hindu temple. The event is being held to coincide with the golden jubilee of the art form’s ground breaking entry into the open world.

The oldest extant form of Sanskrit theatre, Kutiyattam was traditionally performed in Koothambalams - stages built inside temples for ritualistic performances. Rama Chakyar, a revolutionary in his own right, took the art form to the public by staging it outside temples and thus making it accessible to a larger crowd of connoisseurs. He presented Chakyar Koothu outside the temple premises in 1948 and Kutiyattam in 1956, the first person to do so at a time when the religious and cultural mores deemed it sacrilegious. 

He did not believe in the system of Chakyar Koothu and Kutiyattam being learned and performed by the members of the Chakyar community alone. He began teaching the art forms to students from all castes and creeds. Later, in 1965, a Kutiyattam wing was inducted in the Kerala Kalamandalam with Painkulam as the head of the department.

“The contribution of Rama Chakyar and other veterans who ventured to free the art from its confinements of temples is invaluable,” said K K Gopalakrishnan, director of Kutiyattam Kendra. “If not for the foresight of greats like Rama Chakyar, the art from would not survived,” he said.

Rama Chakyar’s adaptations of traditional plays to suit contemporary times has proved pivotal to the acceptability that the art form gained among younger generations of audience. He edited and condensed plays for the better understanding of the public, directed over 100 plays and made stage appearances in more than 1000.

His adaptations of the second act of Shakunathalam and Jatayuvadham of Ascharyachoodamani found roaring success among rasikas. His unorthodox take on Bodhayana’s Bhagavadajjukam (The sage and the courtesan) is considered his masterpiece. The crisp and engaging choreography trimmed the original play performed over 35 days to one that is wound up in three to four hours.

“Bhagavadajjukam will be presented by the disciples of Rama Chakyar, which is a major highlight,” says Gopalakrishnan. Kalamandalam Rama Chakyar, the grand nephew of Painkulam and Padmashri awardee Kalamandalam Sivan Namboothiri who was the first member outside the Chakyar community to learn the art from, will take part in the performance. Kalamandalam Girija, the first woman artist outside the Nangyar community; Shailaja, head of the Kutiyattam department at Kalamandalam; and Eeswaran Namboothiri, performing artist as well as an accomplished player of Mizhavu, will complete the cast.

The event will be inaugurated at the Museum auditorium on January 7 at 5 pm.

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