One of the few pioneers of exposition of dances puppet, plays and dance dreams of Kerala. Shri, Venu, Has delved deeply into the various forms of magic which I feel are still the dithrymbs of Kerala where there are festivals of laughter and joy in the village theatre or in the courtyard of the temple. I hope in some later book Shri. Venu will explore the coincidences and the differences of our own Surviving vitalist village and temple forms and the Dionysian dances at Delhi in Greece which became the tragic dramas of Aeschyles Sophochles and Euripides.
Shri G. Venu though these books and his field work in the other forms of dance in Kerala has enlearned himself to many traditional artists.
But G. Venu did not confine himself to the classical modes such as Kathakali. Mohiniyattam and Kudiyatam but also other traditional form such as Tolpavakauttu Payakathakali (Glove Puppet) and ritualistic dance drama Mudiyettu. However the most interesting dramatic from he revived is tribal Kakkarissi Natakam which was on the brink of total extinction.
Starting his life as a Kathakali dancer G. Venu the author of this book became a teacher but soon gave up that profession to devote himself to the arduous task of reviving the lost glory of puppetry and other rare arts of Kerala.
He started Natana Kairali at Irinjalakuda which adopted any art form of Kerala that was on the brink of extinction. Nine such forms were rejuvenated the important ones being Pavakathakali Tolpavakoothu, Mudiyettu and Kakarissi Natakam. It was an uphill task to contact the surviving artistes to remote villages who were rural folk not used to any discipline in work. Perseverance pain venu rich dividends.
The book puppetry and lesser known dance traditions of Kerala by G. Venu is a must for every library.
Venu with his ever searching mind and thirst for the performing art forms of Kerala has done a marvelous job in resurrecting so many almost extinct forms of dance puppetry and theatre in his region. He has plodded through villages and remote areas to discover just one or two persons who knew the art of Pavakathakali puppet theatre and the Tolpavakoothu puppets. Not only has he discovered these old forms but also given them life and exposure in the world by getting and training young persons to learn and perform those lost beautiful theatre forms. He has even managed to get the original script often just oral versions of themes handed down from an old exponent or two. He has done the same to the dance drams of Mudiyettu, Padayani, Kakkarissi Natakam, Tiruvatirkali and the Kummattikali. In face all the performing arts in Kerala have a ritualistic background and approach. Thus they are performed with great dedication. The preparation for each form involves ceremonious details starting almost from an early morning bath to fasting and special diet before the performances which usually begin at night.
Venu has been revived the group dance of women the Tiruvatirakali which any young or old lady can Join. It involves simple rhythmic steps and is dedicated to secure good husbands and future. In fact all stories and the dedication of these are forms appear to be for the Goddess Kali the deity of the land and are usually performed in the temple premises on certain auspicious days of the year to invoke or appease the gods of rain fertility and abundance and also to celebrate the numerous festivals of kerala.
This book is really so interestingly written giving details into the structure the music the theory the practice and the ritualistic aspects. These theatre forms are so designed that the actor dancer can really lose himself in the performance and therefore the performance achieves a height of divinity. Here the Natana Kairali centre which Shri Venu runs, needs all the support and applause for the work done by him to discover and give life to the almost lost forms of dance dramas and puppetry for which Venu is still with his searching mind looking out.
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