Dancing like a man

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Chat Purnima Menon tells SHILPA SEBASTIAN R. she did not take to Kathakali right away. The danseuse says she took years to understand the lyrics and the beauty behind this age-old classical art form

Kathakali was such a male-dominated dance form that even the female characters were enacted by men. Things, however, have changed over the last few years. It has seen some women, who have braved all odds – vigorous training, long hours of make up, heavy costume and head gear, among other things to carve a niche for themselves in this art form.

One such artiste is Purnima Menon. And that is not all. She has struck a balance between her career as an officer at the CSS Corp Pvt. Ltd. and a Kathakali performer.

“I dreaded it when I was initiated into this form at the age of seven by my father, whose exposure to towards the classical arts of Kerala was immense. As we stayed close to the International Centre For Kathakali in New Delhi, my training began, despite my negative attitude towards it. Today, I am so grateful to my father for helping me discover the beauty of Kathakali, which has all the elements of dance and theatre in it,” beams Purnima.

“The training is rigorous. It goes on and on for hours. Being more interested in games as a child, I would find myself making lame excuses to miss my classes,” recalls the dancer, who adds: “It’s also a myth that only men are into it. Chavara Paru Kutty was one of the earliest women to enter this art form and many have followed. Since I was too young to understand the art form, I just wanted to be done with my practise and run off to play. In fact, I even showed my disapproval by discontinuing my training during my teens,” says Purnima.

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