Methil Devika’s ‘Kottichetham’ wins applause for it choreography and presentation as a duet

Dr. Arun Azeez and Methil Devika   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Methil Devika has been not been resting on her laurels during the lockdown. The danseuse and academic has been busy with performances, classes and choreography. New themes and fresh interpretations, some of which were shared on social media, won acclaim for her interpretation and interesting perspectives that she translated into the vocabulary of classical dance.

Recently, ‘Kottichetham’, an excerpt of which was shared on her Facebook page, created ripples of excitement among dance buffs. Performed by Devika and Dr Arun Azeez, the video of the recital was launched by singer KS Chitra on her Facebook page.

“This is an excerpt from the Tamil epic Silappathikaram, written by Ilango Adigal. Kottichetam is believed to have been danced by the Parayur Chakyan of the Chera court for the King and the queen. The Chera King had just emerged victorious from a battle and the image of the king and the queen together inspired him to dance this piece,” explains Devika.

She adds that Kottichetham is the dance of Lord Siva and Uma, a part of himself. While Siva’s eyes are blazing and his matted locks are tossed around, the Uma within him is the picture of composure. “The pointers in the lines are definitely towards the Ardhanareeswara concept and talks about the twirl of energy between the divine masculine and the feminine within one self and not two persons,” she elaborates.

Set to music by the late Kavalam Narayana Panicker and Kavalam Srikumar in Champa tala, a tala native to Kerala’s art forms, Kottichetham was choreographed by Devika 10 years ago.

In January 2020, Devika had conducted a dance workshop for international students. Kottichetham was one of the pieces she had taught at the workshop. One of the participants was Melbourne-based ENT surgeon Dr Arun Azeez. “Almost 32 years ago, Arun had bagged the first prize for Mohiniyattam at the Kerala State Youth Festival competition. Now, a busy medical practitioner, Arun is more into painting. The workshop caught his attention and he decided to explore the aspects of Mohiniyattam once more. I was amazed to find him getting into the groove without many difficulties. He picked up the steps within six days and that is how Kottichetham was performed recently,” says Devika.

Television director Rajesh Kadamba visited her Kalari in Palakkad when the workshop was in progress. When he saw the performance, Rajesh was keen on archiving it. Despite Devika’s initial reluctance, Arun also felt that it must be recorded as he had no idea when he would be able to come to India again. Given the present circumstances, Devika feels it was a good idea to have archived it.

New path

Pleased with the reception to the video, Devika says the whole experience has opened a new path for her as she plans to explore the dynamics of the dance form for a male genre. “I am working on many items that suit the male energy for the dance form. I feel it will push the boundaries of the art form,” asserts Devika who cherishes dancer-actor Vineeth Radhakrishnan’s compliments for the piece.

Moreover, she points out that as soon as they had finished the preliminaries of the workshop, she had an intuition that Arun would come into his own with ‘Kottichetham’.

Although she had composed it for a solo and had danced at prestigious venues in India, she says the dynamics of a duet came as a pleasant surprise. “We improvised a lot but it came out well,” she says.

Delving into the roots of the piece, she recalls that this particular part of the Tamil epic was not very familiar to many practitioners of music and dance.

“According to anthropologists, Parayur Kootu Chakyan must be from the present-day Paravur. The Chera King in those parts may have inspired the Chakyan to come up with this piece. Kavalam sir had told me that ‘Kottichetham’ mean a dance accompanied by clapping of hands. Later, I happened to read that it also signifies a moment when these two entities, the feminine and the masculine, cannot be distinguished despite their dualities. That is yet another interpretation of Kottichetham.

“However, Kavalam sir’s description is also correct. When I narrated the background and performed this in Chendamangalam, near Paravur, one of the priests of a temple there told me that there was an offering in some Siva temples there that involved clapping and laughing. Known as ‘Kottum Chiriyum’, it was performed only by women,” she explains. The priest told her that her recital reminded him of that offering.

Devika, completely bowled over by the antiquity of the piece, goes on to add that it is still a work in progress.

Notwithstanding the fact that she had no plans to release it, Devika says the pandemic has highlighted how unpredictable life has become and so she decided to share it with the world.

“Kottichetham has been performed by other dancers as well, including veteran Kanak Rele. But each person has approached it from a different perspective. In this case, it is the duet that changed the entire presentation of the piece,” she says with a laugh.

However, Devika believes that certain portions of the dance need to be improved upon.

“For me, Ardhanareeswara is not being half male and half female. That is more of an artist’s impression. More than two people dancing, I felt that it pointed to the presence of the male and female in every person. It is an interaction of energies within oneself. You have to be in union with yourself to be in the same bandwidth as another person who is also in union with himself/herself. Only then will the Ardhanareeswara concept achieve fullness,” avers the dancer and guru.

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Printable version | Sep 24, 2021 11:06:11 PM |

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