KOCHI: Kathakali has been a passion for Asha Jeevan Sathyan, granddaughter of the late actor Sathyan, since her school days. Although she has mastered and performed a variety of dance forms like bharatanatyam, kuchipudi and mohiniyattam from a young age, kathakali, that she started in Class VIII ,stuck with her. “I first performed Kathakali in 1998 as part of the school youth festival. Since I was well-versed in different art forms, my teacher chose me to replace one of the performers who fell sick,” said the 34-year-old.
Mentored by experienced kathakali artistes from the state like Nelliyode Vasudevan Namboodiri and Nelliyoode Vishnu Namboodiri, she went on to perform at various school and college youth festivals. “Apart from participating in events organised at Regatta Natya Sangeetha Kendra, I also used to perform at the light and sound shows organised by Soorya Krishnamoorthy, who is a close friend of my father,” she says.
Recently, she performed for the online dance festival organised by city-based Kalanjali School of Arts. It was a special moment for Asha as she was performing after a long gap of four years. Wanting to spend more time raising her young daughter made her take this break from practising dance.She credited her dance guru Nelliyode Vasudevan for encouraging her to start performing kathakali again. “He helped me prepare for the online competition. The indoor performance was difficult without the orchestra. So we had to download the verse and prepare according to it,” she says.
Sita, Shurpanakha and Panchali are some of the popular female roles in Kathakali that Asha has performed at various dance shows. Even though she was interested in portraying male characters, her teachers talked her out of it. “It might have something to do with my height, as the male roles need taller performers for it to look more aesthetic,” she said. As an experienced kathakali artiste, she believes that viewers need to have deep knowledge of the dance form to enjoy it. “Those who have genuine interest in kathakali or other art forms will be able to watch and appreciate it,” she says.