Into The World of Kutiyattam: With The Legendary Ammannur Madhavachakyar

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Item Code: NAD059
Author: G.Venu
Publisher: Natana Kairali, Kerala
Edition: 2002
Pages: 188 (128 B/W & 26 Color Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.5 Inch X 5.5 Inch
Weight 500 gm
Fully insured
Fully insured
Shipped to 153 countries
Shipped to 153 countries
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More than 1M+ customers worldwide
100% Made in India
100% Made in India
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23 years in business
Book Description
From the Jacket

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 Arts.

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 Kailasa.

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.


Part One
Into the World of Kutiyattam 15
A Few Worlds About Myself 17
The Legendary Chakyars 18
Madhava Chakyar in the Dance Workshop 20
At Ammannur Madhom 21
The First Performance in Delhi 22
First Trip Abroad 23
In Paris 27
A Workshop for Peter Brook 28
At the Festival of India in London 30
Founding of the Gurukulam 31
The Ammannur Kutiyattam Tradition 36
Ammannur Chachu Chakyar 37
‘Vidushake’of Chachu Chakyar 38
Blood-drenched Surpanakha 41
From the Notes of Rama Chakyar 42
Madhava Chakyar Tells His Own Story 44
‘Asokavanikamkam’ Again on the Stage 49
Nangiar Koothu in Those Days 53
Kutiyattam Festivla at the Vadakkumnatha Temple 55
Kutiyattam Festival in Thiruvananthapuram 61
At the birthplace of Kalidasa 63
Another Trip to Paris 64
Kutiyattam Festival at Tripunithura 65
Gurukulam in Crisis 66
At the ‘India in Switzerland’ 68
At the ‘River Mela’ in London 69
At the Holland Festival 70
At the Festival of Indian in Japan 70
Spic Macay to Promote Kutiyattam 72
Again in the Akademi 73
Rejuvenation of Nangiar Koothu 74
Once again Kutiyattam Festivals 75
Distinguished Guests 77
Performances in Sri Lanka 82
Yati comes to see Kutiyattam 83
To the Koothambalam Again 85
Growing Interest in Kerala 86
Honours Awarded Again to Chakyar 86
Kutiyattam Mahotsavam in Delhi 87
No more of Travel 88
Adieu to the Koothambalam 89
Part Two
The New Generation 93
First Performance in Sweden 94
At Copenhagen 95
In the land of Peking Opera 96
Kutiyattam – Week at Rietberg Museum 97
Kutiyattam in the Japanese Festival 99
With the Chaplin family 100
‘World theatre’ in Kerala 101
East of the Sun, West of the Moon 102
At the Galileo Galilei Hall 103
Eleven Stage for Nangiar Koothu 104
Two Weeks in Mozambique 105
In Korea and Malaysia 106
Acting Laboratory 107
Yen tavo Sheen tavo 108
Silver Jubilee as an International Festival 110
84th Birthday and Recognition by UNESCO 111
Back on the Stage 112
A Symposium in Himachal Pradesh 114
Two Similar Traditions of Singing and Acting 116
Kutiyattam and Noh 117
The Abhinaya of Navarasas at UNESCO 118
Farewell to the stage 121
Abhijnana Sakuntalam in Kutiyattam 122
Panchamukha Mizhavu 128
An International Seminar 129
1. Press Reviews 133
2. Hydra dialogue 2001142
3. Brief life Sketches168
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