Monday, March 11, 2013

Homage to the Maestro

I write this post after seeing the breaking news on television just now – “Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair passes away”. An enchanting and amazing Kathakali performer, it goes without saying that he was one of his own kind. Kathakali is the finest traditional and finely stylized dance-drama form of Kerala. It has lively sopanam style music accompanied to the rhythmical beats of percussion, vibrant and colourful costumes that goes with the nature of the character personified, the elaborate make up, the graceful dance with eloquent gestures or mudras and the brilliantly executed navarasa expressions. I have had opportunities of seeing this amazing artist who breathed life into the very many roles he had enacted on stage.
I am reminded of the 70s and 80s when I was growing up in my rustic home village of Pallavur. As a youngster I was fascinated by the temple arts that were showcased every year at our Thripallavur temple festivals. There would be Ottamthullal, Chakyaar Koothu, Koodiyattam and night long Kathakali shows during festive times. And my favourite was of course the Kathakali which was performed on two nights. I remember going to watch the performance and coming back home at dawn. I had to attend school and later college after the show but that did not dampen my spirits. Looking back I am really amazed at myself – how I enjoyed and sat completely engrossed during those Kathakali performances. I remember seeing Nala Charitham Aatta Katha, Daksha Yagam, Keechaka Vadhom, Panchali Shapadham, Kalyana Sougandhikam, Santhana Gopalam, Bali Vijayam, Poothana Moksham and the rarely performed Manikanda Vijayam on the story of Lord Ayyappa at our temple precincts.
That was how I got introduced to the grace of Kalamandalam Raman Kutty Nair and Kalamandalam Gopi. I was spell bound by Raman Kutty Nair’s brilliant portrayal of Hanuman in the Ramayana stories of Kathakali – the Vella Thadi character and the adorable romantic hero - virtuous hero roles perfected by Kalamandalam Gopi – like the characters of Nala, Arjuna and Karna. It remains clear in my mind even today, decades later, replete with the antics of the monkey (he was playing Hanuman) that made us go in splits. Even more thrilling was when he would walk right into the midst of the audience with a branch of a tree, acting every bit a primate! I never knew the intricacies of the art form but delightfully enjoyed them each time I sat through them.
hanuman 2
Sri Raman Kutty Nair was the doyen of the “Kathi” veshams in Kathakali. All the “Kathi” characters are anti-hero ones like Duryodhana, Keechaka and Ravana. He had also enacted with élan the “Pazhuppu” veshams – the characters of of Parasurama, the Brahmana of Sandhana Gopalam and Kuchela in Kuchela Vritham. Equally memorable was his “Kattaalan” vesham in Nala Charitham second day. Scores of awards and Padma Bhushan later, he occupies the pride of place in the minds of art connoisseurs.
One more maestro departs from the stage of Life. However, though his legacy will live on, there will never be one more of his kind ever! May his soul rest in eternal peace. Kathakali lovers all over the world will bid adieu to this maestro with tears in their eyes.
Source for the picture:

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Savage Ravagers

There is no agony like an untold story inside of you. ~~ Maya Angelou
Picture a little three year old gypsy girl…
Imagination sure will run riot! The picture of a little girl who is in her “magic years” comes to my mind’s canvas… a little one with a dusky complexion… wild unkempt hair because her mother cannot afford oil…
Chattering non-stop in a language that is soon losing its babyishness that would probably make her impoverished mother smile and forget temporarily the trials and tribulations of her dreary existence…
Living life in a make-believe world, pretending to make pancakes with coconut shells…Asking so many questions about things around her that will whet her curiosity…
Nimble hands getting used to handling small objects and thus perfecting her motor skills…Getting familiar with the concept of “I, me and mine…”
Boundlessly energetic and exploring world around her…
Enjoying blissful sleep huddled to her mother and waking up again to the beauty of another day...
Can we imagine such a girl? Eyes shining with a wondrous sparkle at the bright new world around her… The innocence of a sweet smile adorning her little lips… Tiny fingers and the frail legs that make her flit around as gracefully as a dandelion seed floating in the air… An embodiment of innocence with a disarming ability to trust everyone implicitly…
Normally, at the age of 3+ she would a pre-schooler. Perhaps running around the verandah / yard of an Anganwadi because that would only be what her poor mother could afford. No, here she was perhaps just tagging along holding the pallu of her mother’s sari for they belong to a nomadic tribe… leading a gypsy-like existence…sleeping in the street…
It is such an angel who was despoiled by a group of men! And where did this happen? In the literate shores of Kerala! In God’s own country, where men seem to behave worse than devils!! It is reported that the little girl was abducted at dawn when she was sleeping with her mother in the verandah of a shop. By the time the ant eaten little one was found at about 10 am, she had suffered inhuman aggressions on her tender body. She may be a gypsy girl. But doesn’t she have a right to live and that too to live safely and securely???
The whole world loves a child. But not these fiends… How can anyone even look at such a small little girl with such deviant lust??? What ails these menfolk? Have they no conscience at all? Reports say 14 of them were arrested and that they were drugs addicts and habitual offenders. So what??? If you take drugs, wreak havoc on your own body, not others. Respect their body temple. If you drink, ditto! Habitual offenders – you brutes have not had the real taste of punishment and that is why you repeat such foul acts with impunity. To those MCPs who say that women invite rape unto themselves, pray what provocation did this little girl give to be ravaged like this?
The little one is in the ICU, battling for her life in a Calicut hospital. She has already undergone two operations. There is the lurking fear of an infection. What will her future be? Will she make it alive from this ordeal? What emotional and psychological scars and trauma will be hidden in her persona as long as she lives?
Little girl, we beg forgiveness. I hope you will beat death on its face. I hope you will grow up to be a brave girl who does not blame yourself for what happened to you. Like what Albert Camus said, I hope, in the depths of winter, you will learn that there is in you an invincible summer. Let your light shine and be a source of strength and courage to all. Like a tiny bird through a storm cloud sky, a tiny piece winged its way through the chaos and I hope and pray that is YOU. I know it is easy for me to say all this while you suffer. But I feel your pain. I feel your agony. I feel your numbness. I feel your helplessness.
Well, can 22-female-Ks* of all ages wake up and do the act???? We must or we will never be able to protect our mothers/sisters/daughters from sexual assaults of such base creatures that are just worms of the veritable hell! When the state does not act, when law keepers cannot protect and when there is no justice delivered to very many sex offenders coupled with the snail’s pace of trails at even fast track courts, the only option seems to be taking law into our hands and mete out retribution, like how Tessa did. If you feel that I am exhorting for eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth dictum like Hammurabi, the Sumerian ruler did, my answer is: Yes, there is no other way out.
(* “22 Female Kottayam” is new generation neo-realistic movie where a woman with a ravaged body and a distraught mind plans a macabre yet much needed revenge against the one who ruins her and executes it with élan. It appealed so much to the angry woman in me.)