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Updated: December 6, 2013 12:51 IST

Attired in costumes, the legend is born again

Special Correspondent
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The statue of Chinnathampi Annavi, founder of the traditional Chavittu Nadakam dance drama, at Gothuruth, a hub of Chavittu Nadakam in central Kerala.
The statue of Chinnathampi Annavi, founder of the traditional Chavittu Nadakam dance drama, at Gothuruth, a hub of Chavittu Nadakam in central Kerala.

The task undertaken by sculptor Anto K. George was by no means ordinary.

As he set about making the first-ever statue of Chinnathambi Annavi, the 16th century founder of Central Kerala’s dance drama Chavittu Nadakam, he did not have any image of the person for reference nor any description of how he looked like.

It was then that Mr. George decided to recreate the legendary figure as the knightly protagonist of the Chavittu Nadakam piece, Karalman Charitham (the story of Emperor Charlemagne a.k.a Charles the Great) authored by Annavi which to date is the most popular theatrical piece in Chavittu Nadakam ensemble.

A year after the project was launched as part of the maiden Kochi Muziris Biennale’s unique public statue mission, Annavi has now come alive, attired in Chavittu Nadakam costumes, in the courtyard of Holy Cross Church in Kadalvathuruth on Gothuruth Island. The cement statue with a height of 11 metres will be dedicated to Chavittu Nadakam enthusiasts on December 26, when the current edition of the annual Chavittu Nadakam festival ‘Chuvadi’ organised by the island’s Sports and Arts Club opens.

There cannot be a better occasion than this to unveil the statue, as the festival will witness troupes from Alappuzha, Pallipuram, Fort Kochi and Gothuruth showcasing the ballet — a blend of Kerala and Portuguese traditions — enunciating regional textual differences. On Thursday, India’s newly-appointed Ambassador to Portugal Jitendra Nath Misra paid a visit to Gothuruth as part of his State-wide tour to understand the magnitude of Portuguese influence in its subcultures. Besides relishing the splendour of the Annavi statue, Mr. Misra got to witness a live Chavittu Nadakam performance conducted by young artistes training under Thampy Payyappally, a veteran Chavittu Nadakam performer and trainer. Mr. Thampy’s is one of the two well-subscribed Kalaris in the island where nearly 100 artistes train in the ethnic art form.

For Mr. Misra, the experience couldn’t have been headier. He said the dance drama merited a performance in Portugal as a shining example of the cultural heritage shared by India and Portugal. Biennale trustee Bonny Thomas said Annavi travelled from Kollam to Kodungalloor to promote his art. Gothuruth, he said, was the heartland of Chavittu Nadakam which was what inspired the Kochi Biennale Foundation to choose it as the venue for the public statue.s

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