Exploring Koodiyattom

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THEORY AND PRACTICE: A scene from `Subhadra-Dhananjayam' Act II, which was staged in connection with an international seminar on Koodiyattom.
THEORY AND PRACTICE: A scene from `Subhadra-Dhananjayam' Act II, which was staged in connection with an international seminar on Koodiyattom.


A two-day seminar on Koodiyattom delved into the many aspects of the ancient Sanskrit art form.

Subsequent to the UNESCO recognition of Koodiyattom as a "masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity," the art form has garnered a lot of attention from students of theate, dance and so on. This has led to seminars on the art form and also its documentation.The `International Seminar on Koodiyattom and Asian theatre traditions,' at Vyloppilly Samskriti Bhavan, in Thiruvananthapuram attracted artistes, students and scholars of Koodiyattom from all over the world. The seminar was organised under the aegis of UNESCO/Japan Funds-in-Trust and the Union Government's Ministry of Culture, New Delhi, with Margi, Thiruvananthapuram, as the nodal agency. Diane Daugherty from the United States was the conference coordinator. The seminar, inaugurated by veteran scholar and resource person L.S. Rajagopalan, looked into the various facets of the 2,000-year-old Koodiyattom tradition, spanning its history and aesthetics.

Six sessions

The two-day session was divided into six sessions and each session was dedicated to the greats of Koodiyattom like Ammannur Chachu Chakyar, Mani Madhava Chakyar, Paimkulam Rama Chakyar, D. Appukuttan Nair, Chathakudam Krishnan Nambiar and K.P. Narayana Pisharody. Farley Richmond, Director for Asian Studies, University of Georgia, U.S.A., and author of several works based on Koodiyattom, delivered the keynote address on `Koodiyattom and Asian theatre traditions.' In the first session, `Koodiyattom and the Natyashastra: Breaking the rules,' Bruce M. Sullivan, Professor of Religious Studies, Northern Arizona University, U.S.A., and K.G. Paulose of International Centre for Koodiyattom, Thripunithura, presented their papers on `Natyashastra and Koodiyattam - perspectives on death on the stage' and `Koodiyattam - A break or extension from Natyashastra.' In the second session on `The breath - in theory and practice,' Sreenath Nair from University of Lincoln, U.K., presented his paper on `Breath, Koodiyattam and Beyond.' G. Venu of Natanakairali, Irinjalakuda, conducted a practical session on breath control with the assistance of his daughter Kapila and Kalamandalam Rajeev. The third session was on `The body: performance analysis and practice.' Arya Madhavan from University of Wales, United Kingdom, presented her paper on `Playing gender: reflections on performance interaction between body and text in pakarnattam' and Margi Madhu presented `The body in Koodiyattam.' The day ended with a charming performance of `Udyanavarnana' from the play Bhagavadajjukam, choreographed by the late Paimkulam Rama Chakyar. The second day's sessions began with a seminar on `The female role: historical overview and practice.' Heike Moser from the University of Tuebingen and Wuerzburg, Germany, presenting her paper on `How Koodiyattom became Koodi - attam (acting together) - a possible explanation' cited various historical inscriptions that seem to refer to Chakyars and Nangiars. Margi Sathi demonstrated various characters in Koodiyattam. A session that looked into the `Musical aspects of Koodiyattom' followed. The last session of the seminar, dedicated to K.P. Narayana Pisharody, examined the `Anguliyankam.' The finale was a brilliant Nangiarkoothu performance (`Kamsavadham') by Usha Nangiar with V.K.K. Hariharan and Kalamandalam Rajeev for mizhavu and the staging of `Subhadra-Dhananjayam' Act II, which featured Margi Madhu and Margi Sathi.



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