An eight-day Chakyarkoothu festival at Moozhikulam highlighted the relevance and consummate artistry of the art form.

Nepathya's eight-day festival of Chakyarkoothu at the koothambalam of the institution at Moozhikulam was an attempt to help the art form regain its pride of place in the artistic firmament.

The fete brought together, perhaps for the first time on one stage, different styles and approaches to the art form. It was also an opportunity for artistes of different generations to interact and perform.

The festival started with the presentation of ‘Ramayana prabhandha koothu' by Nepathya Sreehari M. Chakyar, grandson of Koothu and Koodiyattam artiste Moozhikkulam Kochukuttan Chakyar.

Two eminent artistes in their sixties, Kalamandalam Ramachakyar and Ammannur Kuttan Chakyar, lit up the stage on the second and third day. While the former rendered his dialogues in the traditional Painkulam style of Koothu in the presentation of the story of ‘Bhagavad dooth' by Melpathoor Narayana Bhattathiri, the latter kept intact the renowned Ammannur style throughout the narration of the battle between Rama and Ravana.

Rare opportunity

The fourth day witnessed the presentation of ‘Santhanagopalam prabhandha' by octogenarian P.N.N. Chakyar in his Pothiyil style. The prabhandha, a composition by Aswathy Tirunal, is a rarity on the stage of Chakyarkoothu. It narrates the story of Arjuna's efforts to bring to life a Brahmin's sons who had met with an untimely end.

On the fifth day, Painkulam Narayanachakyar staged the prabhandha ‘Bhagavad dooth.‘ His presentation was laced with humour when he described Duryodhana and Arjuna meeting Krishna to win his support in the epic war. He was at his best when his verbal arrows unerringly homed in on the contemporary socio-political spectacle. His vachika (dialogue) as well as his aharya (appearance) were praiseworthy.

Margi Sajiv Narayanachakyar presented ‘Panchali swayamvaram,' composed by Melpathoor, on the sixth day of the festival. He described and enacted Krishna entering the venue of Panchali's swayamvara. His evocative description of Krishna's role helped the audience experience the charm and potential of Chakyarkoothu.

On the penultimate day of the fete, Margi Madhu's recital of Melpathoor's ‘Subhadraharanam' was outstanding. He came up with in-depth interpretations of the prabhandha in Sanskrit. The first sloka itself took around two-and-a-half hours. A strict disciplinarian, he had to curtail his detailed exposition because of the paucity of time.

Pothiyil Narayana Chakyar, an artiste in his sixties, took the role of Vidooshaka in Melpathoor's prabhandha ‘Rajasooyam.' The prabhandha is noteworthy as it is said to be the proof of Melpathoor's deep knowledge of the Kriyas (rituals) done by Brahmins. Narayana Chakyar did a good job of engaging the audience with his dialogues. He presented this in his traditional Mani style. Never did he wander through the wastelands of low-level hasya or unnecessary sarcasm.

The festival, held in memory of Moozhikkulam Kochukuttan Chakyar, the mentor and founder of Nepathya, proved that Chakyarkoothu has a special place in Kerala's cultural scenario. It enriches Malayalam and reveals the depth and scope of the language. Moreover, this art form bridges the past and the present as Chakyarkoothu mirrors the follies and frailties of men.

Able support

Kalamandalam Ratheeshbhas, Kalamandalam Manikantan, Nepathya Jinesh and Nepathya Aswin played the mizhavu. Indu G., Kalamandalam Sangeetha and Nepathya Anjana the tala. Prior to the performances, M.V. Narayanan delivered the Kochukuttan Chakyar memorial speech on the first day of the festival. The fete was held under the aegis of Nepathya.