Viviane Sotier has developed a deep bond with Koodiyattom and Nangiarkoothu
Viviane Sotier can go on and on about Koodiyattom. “I’m surprised how rich an art form can be. The more I learn about Koodiyattom, the more I like it,” says Viviane, a global citizen who was born in Chile and settled in Paris. Viviane is in the city to perform at the Nangiarkoothu festival which begins at Rangaprabhath Theatre Complex, Venjaramoodu, on September 1.
What opened her world to Koodiyattom and Nangiarkoothu was her exposure to world drama during her under graduate days at a university in Besancon city, near Paris. “Although my main subject was philosophy, I learnt drama as well. It focussed on world drama, which covered Asian, South American and African theatre. It was there that I discovered Indian theatre. In addition to the theoretical part that dealt with Natya Shastra and the history of Kathakali and Koodiyattom, we had workshops on Bharatanatyam and Kathakali,” says Viviane.
After her gradation, she came to Kerala Kalamandalam and stayed there for seven months. “I didn’t know anything about the art form. Teachers such as Kalamandalam Girija and Kalamandalam Shailaja gave me proper guidance and I even went with them for programmes,” says Viviane.
She returned to pursue her post graduation in drama at University of Paris VIII but travelled to Kerala frequently to learn more about Koodiyattom.
Now a teacher in drama with the same university, she teaches aspects of the art form to students there. “I explain the mudras, the stories and other aspects of Koodiyattom. I also make them perform small acts. Some of them go deep into it, some don’t,” says Viviane.
What is that brought her close to Koodiyattom? “Many things… I am amazed by the acting technique. It is a theatre form that has been developed over the years by great practitioners. Voice, mind, body, make-up…all play important roles. I was also attracted to the gurukula system of teaching. Above all, I am moved by the dedication and passion of the artistes. They are dedicated to it to such an extent that it reaches a spiritual level. Money is not an important factor for most of them,” says Viviane.
And she hopes to do her bit for Nangiarkoothu. “My aim is to develop a strong bond between our drama and Koodiyattom/Nangiarkoothu and to popularise it in France among new audiences,” she says.
The learning process was never easy, she says. “The Sanskrit shlokas are easy to memorise. But when it comes to Malayalam lyrics, it is a tough task,” she says.
Like many other foreign nationals who come to Kerala to learn different art forms of the State, she too has picked up Malayalam. “I can read and write the language. I can understand most of the conversations. It is just that my pronunciation is not that correct,” she says with a smile.
She is enamoured by the Malayali culture as well. “The way Malayalis dress, their food, traditions, customs and rituals, marriages, relationships… I admire it all. I respect your culture. When I am here, I dress like the people here, though I can never become a Malayali,” says Viviane.
She plans to return home in a week’s time to be part of ‘Shiva-Rodin’, a new production helmed by her teacher.
“French artiste Auguste Rodin had written down his vision of the Nataraja (Lord Shiva). The poetic images are presented by incorporating Bharatanatyam, Koodiyattom, Kathakali and Odissi,” says Vivian. The work will be staged in Paris on October 19 this year.
At the Nangiarkoothu festival, Viviane performs Chedi purappad (5 p.m.). “This is my second performance in the State after my debut performance at the Kerala Kalamandalam. I’m little nervous since I will be performing before an audience who knows the art form,” says Viviane.