THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It set the right mood on a dark night. A group of kathakali women artists took the stage on the second day of the Keli art festival in Thiruvananthapuram, and left the audience in awe with their dramatic performance. Soumya George, director of the Kalanjali School of Arts, led the performance along with five other students from the school.
Soumya played Dakshan from the play Dakshayagam is a Kathakali play (Aattakatha) authored by Irayimman Thampi in Malayalam.
The 37-year-old artist started learning bharatanatyam at the age of four. She continued to perform the art till her marriage but had to drop out, owing to personal reasons. She re-started learning kathakali under Kalarangam Bijulal in 2016. “I wanted to learn some art that is different from the rest, which is explored by fewer women,” says Soumya.
Speaking on the effort of the school to encourage more women to kathakali, Soumya George says the endeavour began three years ago. “Not many women learn kathakali. Even if they do, sometimes they are forced to discontinue as they are caught between family responsibilities,” said Soumya.
It is this understanding of the art and the problems faced by women, that she decided to start the school. “As of now, she had performed in 13 stages. Over 12 students aged 11 to 55 are learning kathakali under Soumya and artist Bijulal. “Since there are not many platforms for women to learn kathakali, women willingly agreed to learn kathakali under me,” she said.
She says family support is needed if women need to excel in arts like kathakali. Soumya says it took them at least two months to play Dakshayagam Kathakali to perfection.