After more than a decade, a Koodiyattam artiste has been selected for this honour
Soon after the 41-day annual Koothu festival at Sree Vadakkunnathan Temple, Thrissur, concluded last month, Ammannur Parameswara (Kuttan) Chakyar, who led the event was selected by Kerala Kalamandalam for its highest honour — a fellowship.
The Koodiyattam fraternity had reason to rejoice, as the Kalamandalam fellowship has come to a Koodiyattam artiste after more than a decade. But the Ammannur School had much more to celebrate since a member of the family had been selected for the coveted honour 33 years after the doyen Ammannur Madhava Chakyar.
Carrying on the tradition
Since Madhava Chakyar’s demise in 2008, Kuttan Chakyar has been heading the school, carrying on the tradition with single-minded devotion. As for his artistry, he owes much to the legends in his family — grand-uncle Chachu Chakyar and uncles Madhava Chakyar and Parameswara Chakyar. Fortunately for him, he was the only student in the Ammannur Kalari during his training. “To be a lone student had its own advantages and disadvantages. True, there was ample personal attention, but it was too much to bear sometimes,” says Kuttan Chakyar. “I dedicate this honour to them.”
Unlike his forebears, Kuttan Chakyar joined the kalari after completing his SSLC. The training was rigorous, especially under the three veterans. Those were the days when Madhava Chakyar was at the zenith of his career. The nephew who had to accompany him everywhere was exposed to his inimitable artistry and gained much from this. Plays like Toranayudham, Balivadham, Soorpankhangam, Jatayuvadham and Asokavanikhangam widened his horizons. And roles like Bali, Sugriva, Rama, Soorpanakha and Ravana helped him hone his skills.
In later years, his enactment of these characters received much appreciation. Interestingly he had the privilege of playing vidushaka in almost all these plays. His contribution to this role acquired significance when he choreographed the vidushaka in the epoch-making production Shakuntalam by G. Venu, and played it as well.
Among his choreographies, Mayasirassu, the fifth Act of ‘Abhisheka Nataka’ deserves special mention.
One of the most sought-after Koothu (vachika) artistes, Kuttan Chakyar is a staunch critic of those who look down upon purushardhas in Koothu, dubbing it platitudinous or irrelevant to contemporary times. He says, “Appreciation of this art demands a minimum culture from the audience and that is on the wane these days. The only consolation for performers is that the foreigners sit through the entire show.”
The presentation of Koodiyattam at Vadakkunnathan and Koodalmanikkam temple, Irinjalakuda is the exclusive preserve of the Ammannur family. And under the leadership of Kuttan Chakyar, the family has been commendably executing it. Towards this end, the role of his daughter, Aparna Nangiar, the Nangiarkooth exponent and nephew, Rajaneesh Chakyar, an accomplished performer, has been praiseworthy.
The writer and culture critic is a trained musician.