Talking Karnatic Kattaikkuttu with TM Krishna

At a previous performance of Karnatic Kattaikkuttu

At a previous performance of Karnatic Kattaikkuttu   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement


TM Krishna explains why Karnatic Kattaikkuttu is a conversation and not a fusion performance

A little over a year ago, Carnatic vocalist TM Krishna took the stage in Mumbai for a collaboration that challenged cultural niches, biases, and artistic creativity. They called it Karnatic Kattaikkuttu. “We were always clear — this was not a fusing of two forms. This is simply a conversation between Carnatic and Kuttu, with the art forms converging in a way that aesthetically makes sense,” Krishna explains. The performance comes to Chennai for the first time this weekend on the Kalakshetra stage.

The idea germinated when he saw a veteran Kuttu artist P Rajagopal on stage over five years ago. The artistes began collaborating — first at the Urur Olcott Kuppam Festival, followed by the Kattaikkuttu Sangam’s annual Performing Arts Festival. A major part of the preparation went towards choosing scenes that highlighted the best of both forms, says Krishna, who performs the vocals along with his wife, Sangeetha Sivakumar.

“We were always clear — this was not a fusing of two forms. This is simply a conversation between Carnatic and Kuttu,” says TM Krishna

“We were always clear — this was not a fusing of two forms. This is simply a conversation between Carnatic and Kuttu,” says TM Krishna   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

No barriers

Joined by 13 kattaikkuttu performers, as well as co-artistes Akkarai Subhalakshmi (violin), K Arun Prakash (mridangam) and N Guruprasad (ghatam), they will present two pivotal scenes from the Mahabharata. Sangam co-founder and principal facilitator, Hanne de Bruin, says, “Carnatic music adds texture, interspersed with introspection and silence, while kattaikkuttu’s imagery, physicality, and narrative content, including its humour, lend a novel visual-kinetic context.” She goes on to explain, “In some ways, it’s a political statement: a production featuring two art forms that, for so long, have been kept socially apart. It contests these barriers by opening up the audience’s eyes to the beauty, intricacies and power that inhabit different art forms.”

Coming home

After debuting in Mumbai in December 2017, the show went to the Serendipity Arts Festival, Kochi Biennale and Bengaluru, before concluding with tomorrow’s performance in Chennai, where both art forms find their roots. Krishna believes it will be a welcome change for an audience that is open to have their perceptions challenged. “We often chalk down aesthetic binaries to personal preference. They exist in the subconscious and emerge in many ways, even in the comments we make,” he says. Yet they are here to celebrate art, focussed on telling impactful stories in a manner that is both raw and rational. The questioning, he says, is left to the audience itself.

“As artistes, we will challenge each other, question ourselves, and even agree sometimes. But we are not personifying the binaries. We’re simply allowing them to open a dialogue that will stay with our audience long after the performance is over,” he concludes.

Karnatic Kattaikkuttu, produced by First Edition Arts, will be staged at Kalakshetra’s Rukmini Devi Auditorium on Sunday, February 3, from 6.30 pm. Tickets at ₹150, ₹250 and ₹500 on and at the venue on event day. 7338733190

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2020 9:11:29 PM |

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