After a long gap, I had the opportunity to be there for the temple festival at Pallassana, which was an integral part of our lives during our childhood. It was nostalgic to watch Sri. Chandrasekhara Varrier’s awesome performance with his natural ease! It was exciting to meet M/s. Unnikrishnan, Narayanan and Madhu after quite some time. Witnessing the stamps of time on each of them had inspired me to search for lost hair locks on my head as well!!
However, it was sad to notice that the number of days of Kathakali performance had been cut down to three instead of traditional five due to poor turnout of audience. Even for these three days, the audience presence was 1/4th of its usual turnout?! When we discussed about it, there have been many reasons popping out for this deterioration (which has been gradual over last 3 – 4 years) and felt very sorry about the state of affairs.
The inspiration for writing this note was actually something very interesting and different. This is a reiteration of what I have been advocating earlier in my article regarding induction of culture; http://indpad.blogspot.in/2012/02/inducing-culture-in-young-minds.html I wrote that post after watching an interview of Sri. Vellodi (The first Indian Ambassador to Tanzania) and I mentioned there that we Pallassanites are lucky to get such cultural induction through these temple festivities and performing arts, which is actually missing in the current system of education. In fact, Mr. Vellodi was very logically insisting on introduction of such a subject in the syllabus of the current education system.
Coming back to ‘Kalithattu’ (The stage where Kathakali is performed), I met Mr. Benedict * , (who’s at least 5+ years junior to me in school) at this temple ground watching Kathakali with his wife and children. I was meeting him after at least 5 years, though his parents lived quite nearby! But the most amazing fact was the revelation that he’s been quite a fan of ‘Kathakali Padhams’ (the verses) and I was awestruck at the knowledge he was having on the subject and my interaction became more interesting when he told that he had gone to Kottakkal and other places to watch Kathakali performances! It was all the more refreshing to see the entire family there and he told me that his wife insisted on seeing Kathakali as she had heard quite a lot from him and became curious to know more about it. I also realized that such classical folk arts have audience at various planes which, ordinary people like me would find very difficult to express, because in the midst of our interaction, he was getting impatient when artistes started performing ‘Manodharmam’ as he was keen to listen to the verses! Earlier, he even explained some of the verses for me as I couldn’t make out from the recital by Sri. Narayanan. Then I moved onto the front side of the stage, where the crowd was very less unlike my earlier experiences! Standing on the side, I was watching beautiful Manodharmam by Sri. Varrier and I met Kuttan, one of the connecting links of our generation with all these festivities. I was introduced to Sri. Kesavan Kundliar (Very famous for his ‘Parasurama’), who was offering a live explanation of the meaning of the Manodharmam performed on the stage, which made it more interesting. He had also discussed regarding various ‘Shlokas’ on which ‘Manodharmam’ is based. Now, I could feel the next plane of sensitivity which is more comprehensive and enjoyable.
These experiences enhanced my conviction about the cultural thread these festivities used to play in all our lives despite our diverse socio-economic-religious backgrounds. These festivities contributed a lot to induce and nurture culture inside each of us, unconditionally. Whether the organizers knew it or not, this played a pivotal role in moulding our characters!! I think it is time now for all of us to give back this limitless love to the society for the sake of our younger generation, unconditionally.
Every art form had undergone tremendous changes in order to sustain itself and to keep it updated and attractive to the changing pattern of interests and sensitivity planes of its audiences. While in Hyderabad, during some interstate cultural exchange programme, I had seen a lot of welcome experiments with effective use of technology in classical art forms like ‘Chakyar Koothu’ etc., where they introduced a side screen with the dialogues and live explanations of ‘Mudras’ performed on stage. It was very useful even for those who were watching it for the first time. We should also provide proper seating arrangements for the audience to encourage them to come to such public places. Let’s do our best to retain this intuitive fiber created by the legends of the past.
(*The original names are changed in order to respect the privacy of the individuals.)