Showing posts from January, 2012

From Krishnattam to Kathakali

Today we see it in its various avatars both in Kerala and abroad, either the capsule version or the full version. The stories have changed; you even have King Lear and Chinese stories done in this form these days, a far cry from the epics. It is greatly respected by dancers of the world and it brings in a bit of awe in the mind of the discerning viewer. Perhaps like the characterization of Keechaka by Panikkar did over a century ago, in the mind of the lovely lass Tatri. Lots of questions come up about the origins of this complex act and people even talk sometimes about the similarity with the Chinese opera or the Kabuki theatre of Japan. It is a rainy morning here, gets the grey cells going for me and so I thought it is a good idea to spend a little time and go over the legends that made it what it is today.
I still recall the sleepy nights at our temple in Pallavur, many moons ago, when we had Kathakali for the Ezham vilakku celebrations (now we have Ganamelas by winners or partici…

Canterbury Week at Calicut

There have been plenty of Englishmen over the years, especially towards the start of the 20th century, narrating mostly interesting, sometimes short but usually tall tales of Calicut, depending on or for that matter directly proportional to the number of mugs of beer they have ingested. A large number of them, and you will recognize many a name in the annals of Malabar history, came to India not as part of the East India Company or as soldiers or administrators, but as planters and businessmen. Many of them spent years in the salubrious hilly Wynaad region not so far of Calicut, working in what we know as ‘the estates. I myself was born near one of them and my parents spent some of their happiest years in those estates’. As a child and all through the years when my father was alive, I have seen that gleam of happiness as the topic of discussion veered off to the estates and he slid back in his mind to the hills on the Ghats bordering Mysore & Tamilnadu, where he worked as a doctor…