In simple narrative, spoken as It were, venu describes with his Keen sensitivity how Kutiyattam, The chiseled diamond, beautifully Cut and set by the great master Artiste of your lay concealed in the Dust of neglect and want of appreciation. The society and community, which had nourished the art centuries ago, were now oblivious of the treasure that lay in their backyard, as it were. Only a few great masters and their disciples struggled to maintain the beauty of this art in it’s pristine glory.
If the relation between ah guru and his sishya is unique in our tradition, that between Guru Ammannur Madhava Chakyar And his disciple G. Venu has been One of singular fellowship. Ever Since he turned an ardent devotee of both Kutiyattam supreme and The age old theatre tradition 25 Years ago, Venu has been following The acharya like his shadow, taking Care of his needs in the capacity of both a student and impresario. In turn, Madhava Chakyar groomed him as his protégé. This long association catapulted Venu to the centre stage of Kutiyattam of Which he is presently a consummate performer, promoter and authority.
This book adds a new dimension to Venu’s earlier academic achievements. He has written extensively on the performing art of Kerala and has numerous publications to his credit. But his greatest contributions have been his pioneering work in notating the body movement patterns of Kathakali, Kutiyattam, Mohiniyattam etc. His analytical observation translated into line drawings and
Symbols of dance sequences showing each hand mudra, tilt of body, eye movements and feet placement. His specially devised notation system has been lauded by scholars and artists. However, Venu like a true Katiyattam artist, is also a Master Story Teller and he has used his narrative skills very eloquently in the presentation of his Book.
This is the story of the Kutiyattam form – its beauty, its survival Through years of neglect and want of patronage. Into it is interwoven The loves and works of great masters, their sacrifices, their achievements More specifically of the last century and is mainly on the life of the Great Guru Ammannur Madhava Chakyar, truly the living legend. Venu has brought out the artistic temperament and versatility of the Great artist who has been responsible for the revival of Kutiyattam And the status it enjoys today.
Anecdotes from the master’s life, details of his performances, His disciplined and auster life style, his attitude and approach to the Art from abound in the Book. The work unfolds the persona of the Guru – from his childhood to the uncompromising teacher and Performer to a somewhat mellowed sage – who understands the Artistic needs of the changing times but who still gives to and expects inherent in Kutiyattam.
In this narrative, Venu, who is himself a Master of the form –a Story teller par excellence, has inextricably woven his own life’s journey In Kutiyattam and his devotion, care, love and respect for the great master and the art. He describes the glorious past of Kutiyattam and how it survived through millennia and recent neglect, lack of patronage and ‘sahridaya’ audience and, how it is now slowly being rediscovered and brought back to its place of honor in the world of
In simple narrative, spoken as it were, Venu describes with his Keen sensitivity how Kutiyattam, the chiseled diamond, beautifully Cut and set by the Great Master Artiste of yore lay concealed in the Dust of neglect and want of appreciation. The society and community which had nourished the art centuries ago were now oblivious of the treasure that lay in their backyard, as it were. Only a few great Masters and their disciples struggled to maintain the beauty of this art in its pristine glory.
At such a time scholars, art lovers and revivalists such as Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya, G. Sankara Pillai, Kapila Vatsyayan, to name a few, saw the languishing forms of Kerala and felt deeply about the needs for conserving and reviving these and many others.
It was sheer destiny that brought Venu in touch with these great Scholars. Kamaladevi perhaps saw in young Venu the tenacity, the Artistic temperament and the intellectual honesty that she had been searching for. She did not request, but ordered him to take up the ardous task of giving Kerala Arts the status they deserved.
In the last 20 years of working with Venu I have always found him standing behind the Great Masters and supporting them and, now he is a source of inspiration for the younger generation. He has never sought to project himself, his gentle calm temperament makes him a rara and unique performer, scholar, administrator, organizer and now a great teacher and composer. He is a ‘Doer’ who translates visions and dreams into actions and male them come true.
In this book his description of performances brings alive the Episodes enacted by the Master and the reader can actually visualize and experience the ‘rasas’ through his narration. For instance, Ravana’s emotions as he watches Sita with his 20 years. Each eye seeing a different aspect of the beauty – this and more the Kutiyattam performer express with his two eyes. Or, Ravana in a pensive mood
reflecting on how a monkey (Hanuman) can create such havoc in his
Beloved city – remembering the curse of Parvati when he shook Mount
Venu has not stopped at recording history but is creating history By his numerous new compositions. The year 2002 saw the fulfillment of his dream of many years – Kalidasa’s Sakuntala’ composed and directed by him and performed in Kutiyattam had Sanskrit scholars, dancers, theatre persons from all parts of the world, flock to Irinjalakuda, Trichur in Kerala to see the magnum opus. Without faking any license with either the Snskrit text or the Kutiyattam form he held the local, national and international scholars spellbound for 4 nights.
Many of the main performers were the younger artists who had benefited immensely by the two years intensive training received in ‘Netra abhinaya’ and ‘Hasta mudras’ funded jointly by the Japan foundation Asia Center, Tokyo and Sanskriti Pravah, New Delhi. These young artists made the great surviving Masters of Kutiyattam and scholars proud and happy to see that the Tree their forefathers Planted and nourished many millennia ago and which suffered
Through of patronage and appreciation during their life time is Now flowering with new blossoms which are nearing fruits, and its Roots are beings strengthened by the love and care bestowed by Venu and other dedicated artists.
The Tree of Kutiyattam has been rejuvenated with constant care and nourishment it stands tall and proud today. Artists from all over The world comes to it to be inspired by the beauty and artistic Communications and to partake of the fruit of creativity. The ‘Rasika’ Again lives and shares the joy, sorrow, ecstasy, jealousy – all the ‘rasas’ With the Kutiyattam actor and the characters he/she portrays. ‘Thank You Venu’ is all I can say and I am sure that the soul of Kamaladevi Rejoices and celebrates with Venu today and everyday for taking Kutiyattam a step forward in the arena of world theatre.
This is a memoir of a quarter of a century, a cluster of reminiscences at the centre of which is a living legend, a phenomenal Thespian, the grand patriarch of Kutiyattam, Guru ammannur Madhava Chkyur. During this eventful period I had the good for-Tune to witness every one of the notable performances of the great artist. Being a disciple, companion and collaborator at once my relation with this octogenarian has been something unique, it is marked by freedom of an unusual degree.
This is not merely an account of the life and achievement of Guru Ammannur. I have also ventured to include reflections on my Active association with Kutiyattam as well as my apprehensions and Speculations on the present state and future prospects of the art from. The book also presents a brief review of the efforts made in the past Two decades, and more to preserve the Ammannur tradition unim Paired.
Since his debut at the tender age of eleven Madhava Chakyuar has been displaying amazing feats of histrionic ability all these seventy-four years. It was only after he had crossed the auspicious age of sixty that he broke with tradition and took his art out of temple precincts. Then only the world at large got a glimpse of his splendid genius. Thank God, I was witness to a glorious occasion when his acting career reached its summit. It was on the 16th of October 2001, in Paris. The performance had been organized by the UNESCO, in honor of its selecting Kutiyattam as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”. It saw the ultimate fulfillment of The labors of a long life and the gorgeous bloom of the art of Ammannur.
I would put on record our heart-felt gratitude to our Premji (Premlata Puri) for contributing a Forward to this book. The Malyalam version of this book is adorned with an introduction by kavalam Narayana Panikar, one of the leading exponents of the traditional and folk theatre of Kerala.
A number of people – such as Pro. V. Aravindhakshan, Prof. B. Hariharan and Helen Muir – have given instituted assistance in The shaping and writing of this book. I think them all of their valuable suggestions and counsel.
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