Kathakali artist in Kerala takes crash-course route to popularise the art form

Inspired by the course, a nurse from Kottayam, presently working in the United States, went on to learn kathakali online and completed arangettam.
kathakali is a classical performance art that combines dance, drama and music
kathakali is a classical performance art that combines dance, drama and musicPhoto | Express

THRISSUR: With its origins around the 16th century, kathakali is a classical performance art that combines dance, drama and music, and is rightly considered a national treasure.

But society’s unfettered march towards modernity has left practitioners worried about the art form losing its popularity and old-world charm. Realising the predicament, Kalamandalam

Rajeev decided to do something about it. He developed a kathakali-appreciation course that has been piquing people’s interest in the art form and its nuances.

Despite its traditional underpinnings, kathakali can be considered part of the state’s pop culture, featuring in movies, endorsement campaigns and tourism promotion efforts. Yet performers accept the fact that its audience is shrinking. Rajeev’s online course is an attempt to reverse the trend, by popularising the art form by sharing its stage magic. “It began during the Covid days when everybody was locked up in their houses with nothing to do. While it was started as a lockdown activity, the response I received became the fuel to take it forward,” shares Rajeev.

In the last four years, more than 500 people have taken the six-month course, with some even inspired to pursue learning the art form. “The classes have been meticulously designed, integrating both demonstration and theory. We begin by introducing the 24 mudras (gestures). It is difficult to master the mudras in such a short time. Hence through examples, with which everyone can connect, I demonstrate them to participants,” says Rajeev.

The course also covers ‘navarasam’ (nine emotions), ‘ilakiyattangal’, ‘chamayam’, stage, and accoutrements -- all essential components of the art form.

“Over the six months, participants become familiar with each other, to the extent that they form groups to watch performances according to their convenience. Each course ends with a gathering to review the sessions and reinforce the feeling of being part of a family,” he adds.

Inspired by the course, a nurse from Kottayam, presently working in the United States, learned kathakali online and completed arangettam. The beauty and grace of the art form inspired another person from Singapore to also take up the dance form. “It makes me happy when more and more people show interest in learning about kathakali as an art form and make the effort to appreciate it,” says Rajeev.

Hailing from Kollam, Rajeev specialises in pacha vesham. Amid the performance schedules, he plans the classes and presents the concepts in a way that anyone can understand them. He charges a nominal fee of Rs 600 per month. “Kathakali is an unforgettable experience. Many people who were not familiar with stage performances are now searching for the next recital near them, thanks to the classes of Kalamandalam Rajeev,” shared one of the participants of the appreciation course on social media.

Related Stories

No stories found.

X
The New Indian Express
www.newindianexpress.com