Ammannur Madhava Chakyar’s demise brings to an end an era in the field of Koodiyattam.

The death of thespian Ammannur Madhava Chakyar brings down the curtain on a sparkling era in the field of Koodiyattam and Chakyarkoothu.

A true upasaka of the art form, Madhava Chakyar was never moved by the encomiums showered on him in the form of awards. As far as he was concerned, the art form, the nuances of which were handed over to him by his mentor and uncle Ammannur Chachu Chakyar, was part of his daily routine. He polished it to perfection through his untiring practise, devotion, dedication and determination.

Irrespective of the colour, class, race, knowledge or number of the audience – whether in India or abroad – he performed the art form without any kind of dilution. The burning oil lamp seemed to be his main rasika, with its three wicks arousing the Satwa-Rajo-Thamo gunas of the various characters that he portrayed; it seemed to inspire his dance, dialogues and humour.

Along with Painkulam Damodara Chakyar and Mani Madhava Chakyar, he was instrumental in the propagation of Koodiyattam, which used to be confined to the precincts of temples.

The adage used to be: ‘Ammannoor aattam, Pothiyil chollu and Kuttanchery palitham’ (Pothiyil and Kuttanchery are the names of two Chakyar families). Even though his family’s speciality is aattam, he was equally adept in Vaak (dialogues) and Phalitham (humour) too. His voice modulation was in tandem with the nature of the characters he portrayed and whose stories he narrated.

Evocative performances

Whether from the Ramayana or the Mahabharatha, the network of stories flowed from his memory. His Soorpanakha screamed aloud in anger and distress from the towering Koothambalam of Koodalmanickam Temple, Irinjalakuda; with the dark, rainy nights creating a fearsome backdrop. Madhava Chakyar’s Bali was well known, the exposition of the death of that character at the hands of Rama was an act cherished by connoisseurs and laymen alike. One felt that even the dramatist might not have visualised such a dramatic end to Bali. The enactment of the pace of the ‘Kailasodharanam,’ after describing every nook and corner of Kailasam in ‘Parvathyviraham,’ are some of his masterpieces.

The complete text of ‘Asokavanikankam,’ performed at Irinjalakuda 25 years ago, was fully documented and is now a prized treasure in the archives of Sangeetha Nataka Akademi, New Delhi. Spiced with sarcasm and correlating present-day events in the modern socio-political spectrum, the Vidhushaka in him narrated the four Purusharthas – Dharma, Artha, Kaama and Moksha. It used to keep the audience in splits. He was so confident and true to his art form that even the late C. Achutha Menon, who was one of the regular visitors for his performances in Thrissur, was not spared, on one occasion during the Emergency.

Strict disciplinarian

A strict disciplinarian, Madhava Chakyar made it a point to be at Koodalmanickam Temple at the crack of dawn for his daily darshan. His daily routine included rearing the cattle, doing some household chores, reading select chapters of ‘Devi Mahathmyam,’ chanting the ‘Lalitha sahasranamam’ and going through the Puranas, constantly searching for newer and greener pastures with the keen observation of a researcher.

As a teacher, he was the embodiment of patience. Without sacrificing the quality of the art form, he would go over the lessons any number of times till the students perfected it. The numerous disciples of Madhava Chakyar are testimony of his abilities as a teacher. He wrote the acting manual for plays such as ‘Parnasaalankam,’ ‘Maaya seethankam’ and ‘Kalyanasougandhikam.’

Keen on transferring the knowledge to young artistes, he started a Gurukulam 25 years ago in the name of his uncle. His 90th birthday was celebrated in a grand manner last year. His exit from centrestage is an irreparable loss for Koodiyattam. Now it is for his disciples and admirers to see that his legacy is preserved for future generations.