KOCHI: This is set in a ‘koothambalam’ at a temple somewhere in Kochi. A chakyar, with all the facial makeup and in the prescribed costume, walks up to the stage. And he starts performing. With a set that could give competition to any standup comedian, he goes on to narrate puranas in a contemporary light. Ranging from Maoists in the deep woods to parental relationships, from politics to education, he gives a critical opinion on everything that pops into his head. This chakyar goes by the name Vineeth Vasudevan and is one of the scriptwriters of the upcoming Kunchako Boban-starrer ‘Allu Ramendran’.
An aspiring filmmaker, Vineeth is already a popular name in the temple art form circuit. A B-grade chakyar koothu artist for the All India Radio at Kochi and Thrissur, this 27-year-old has been gracing temple festivals for some years now.
Born into a Chakyar family, chakyar koothu has always been an integral part of his life, just as oxygen is to a living thing. He is the son of Kalamandalam Mani Vasudeva Chakyar, who is a senior chakyar koothu performer. “Ever since I was a kindergartner, I used to accompany my father to different programmes,” says Vineeth. “I began practising the art form since the age of nine. Then I began participating in school youth festivals, in which I was a state champion for three years consecutively. At the age of 14, I began performing professionally.”
Vineeth, a native of Elavoor in Angamaly, also used to perform ottan thullal at the time. Having performed in over 1500 stages in different parts of the country, he currently practises both chakyar koothu and pathakam.
A film aficionado
It was during his BTech in Federal Institute of Science and Technology that he turned to cinema. “I was already fascinated by visual arts. And I began doing short films then,” says Vineeth. In 2014, his first short film ‘Inverse’, starring Rachana Narayanankutty, was a hit on YouTube and got over 13 awards in short film festivals. His critically acclaimed short film ‘Nilam’, starring Sajitha Madathil, won him plentiful accolades and put him in the league of popular contemporary filmmakers. In 2017, his short film ‘Video Maranam’ also got him awards in different festivals. Vineeth, along with his friends, has started an advertisement company Plan B Infotainments along with his friends. They conduct workshops in schools and colleges promoting filmmaking.
In the future, Vineeth aims to direct a film. “When I am not performing chakyar koothu, I will be working on scripts for future projects,” he says.Primarily a chakyar, he wants to bring in new elements to the temple art form to make people aware of the contemporary situations. “Chakyar koothu is relevant now more than ever. Basically, it is narrating puranas. Presenting it in any satirical way, we can incorporate socio-political elements and our criticisms. I have always used chakyar koothu for this,” says Vineeth. An exponent of modern-day chakyar koothu, he wishes to bring the temple art form to the general public, including those of different denominations.