THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kathaprasangam, one of the most popular art forms at temple festivals, may be dying a slow death. But irrespective of the slack the art has been receiving, there are many who continue to follow the kathaprasangam as a passion. Among them is city-based ‘Kaadhika’ Sethu Muthukulam. The artist is set to give a performance in the city at an event organised by a charitable organisation as part of its ninth anniversary celebrations.
Once considered a forte of males, Sethu emerged as one of the few women performers who, however, begs to differ that any art can only be dominated by a single gender. Sethu cites the example of the Mylom sisters. “Talent is never based on gender. One only needs the interest.,” she said. A Kaadhika narrates the story, acting as well as singing before the audience, while a few accompanying artists in the background form the orchestra. Typically the performance spans two to three hours. The performing art had its heyday during the latter half of the 20th century, when it attracted huge crowds to temples during festivals and other occasions. Most of the performances are based on literary works or epics.
The temple art is very much unique in the way it is presented “ Kathaprasangam is a very special art form. It combines the art of acting, singing and story telling,” she said. Lamenting the loosing popularity of the stage art in the contemporary times, the artist still harbours hope for the future. “There was a time when the art of story-telling enjoyed much popularity, during the times of kathaprasangam doyen Sambasivan. Though its popularity started declining since the introduction of the television and the popularity of cinematic dance forms and shows, ‘Kathaprasangam’ is undergoing a revival thanks to the government’s support in encouraging the dying folk artforms.”
Sethu Muthukulam has given a few ‘Kathaprasangam’ performances in stages across the city. Apart from that, the artist has also conducted many related workshops in a few government schools in the capital.
The ‘Kaadhika’ is now looking at experimenting with a ‘duet’ form of Kathaprasangam with an upcoming performance based on Changampuzha’s ‘Ramanan’.