When Margi Rama Chakyar came on stage dressed for a Kutiyattam performance at St Mary’s Higher Secondary School, Pattom, the students watched silently, their eyes wide with anticipation. They were not to be daunted by the ancient art form long considered to be inaccessible and incomprehensible.
Having just had a brief lecture demonstration by Margi Usha Nangiar on the nuances of Kutiyattam, they were ready to catch the ‘angika’ (movement of the body and hand ‘mudras’) and ‘sattvika’ (expression of emotion) of the love-struck Pandava prince Arjuna.
The performance was based on a humorous episode from Kulasekhara Varma’s Kutiyattam play ‘Subhadra Dhananjayam’, believed to be written in the 10th or 11th century, and which is also a part of SSLC syllabus. Here, Arjuna describes the beauty of Subhadra to the Vidushakan, played by Margi Saji Narayana Chakyar, elaborating on her long, wavy tresses and her beautiful eyes with long lashes.
Arjuna had fallen in love with the maiden at first sight, when he had rescued her from a demon who had abducted her.
The lecture demonstration by Margi Usha and the performance that followed were part of the Centre for Kutiyattam’s endeavours to popularise and revive the art form, believed to be over 2,000 years old. In order to disseminate Kutiyattam among the younger generation, the centre will be conducting such programmes in 14 schools, one in each district of Kerala, over the coming two months.
It was the inauguration of this project, which the centre is executing in association with the Department of Education, Government of Kerala, and KPSTU Sargasahiti, that was held at St Mary’s School on Wednesday.
“The aim is to bring Kutiyattam more into public view as it has traditionally been restricted to temples,” said K K Gopalakrishnan, Centre for Kutiyattam director, during his speech at the inaugural ceremony.
Cultural Minister K C Joseph; P Harigovindan, president, KPSTU; writer Radhika C Nair; and Shahitha Rahman, state coordinator, Sargasahiti, were among those present at the inauguration.