Dancing on the razor’s edge

EBULLIENT: Marakkal Attam performer D. Govindaraj. Photo: S. James   | Photo Credit: S_James

It is risky but draws the attention of the crowd. The Marakkal Attam or wooden leg dance is an integral part of folk performances. Not many perhaps choose this dance form as balancing on the stilts is no easy task. But, D. Govindaraj thinks otherwise.

Standing tall on the wooden sticks measuring five feet, Govindaraj lifts his legs with consummate ease and dances to folk songs. An outstanding performer in this art form, he has found his way into the Asia Book of Records performing Marakkal Attam non stop for six hours and forty five minutes at the recently concluded Record Breakers’ Festival in Chennai.

“I never thought I would get such recognition,” admits Govindaraj, III year student of Government Music College. “I saw an announcement on the college notice board inviting contestants for the event. My Principal Thanjai Natarajan encouraged me to participate,” he says.

With no family background in Marakkal Attam, Govindaraj’s interest stems from the exposure he got to the different folk art forms during school days. “In class IX, I participated in the training programme organised by the Jawahar Bal Bhavan. I was introduced to folk art forms such as Karagattam, Poi-kal Kuthirai, Kavadi and Mayilattam,” he says. “Somehow the folksy flavour got into me and started practicing.”

Govindaraj is professionally trained in several folk dances, including Madattam, Karuppasamy Attam and Kuravan-Kurathi Attam, but his heart beats for the wooden leg dance. “Whenever I stand tall on the stilts, an inexplicable feeling overtakes me,” says Govindaraj. “I am elated to get a birds’ eye view of the place.”

Govindaraj fondly remembers R.Mohan who taught him Karagattam and Sivagangai V. Nagu, a Nathaswaram performer, whose pep talk motivated him. “He asked me to dance when most of the marakkal performers thought just a stroll in the arena was enough to attract audience attention,” he says. “It is tough. But I put in a lot of effort. I used to practice with the wooden leg for hours together. Initially, I had a hard time as I suffered from sore legs.”

Today, Govindaraj is a key member of the popular Arumugam Folk dance and song troupe in Pudukottai and has performed all over the State, besides acting in a few movies. He also runs his own troupe now -- Govindaraj Gramiya Palsuvai Kalai Kuzhu with 17 members. We travel to various places for performances and our recent one at the Maa Madurai Potruvom was well appreciated,” he says.

His exemplary skills fetched him invitations to perform in Chennai Sangamam and Tamil Classical Conference in Coimbatore. He is a regular performer at the annual Chithirai festival in Madurai. “This year too I was there on day One going around the four Masi Streets on my wooden sticks.”

Govindaraj rues that while Marakkal Attam is well received in Thanjavur and Pudukkottai, it lacks patronage in Madurai. “My efforts will gain meaning only when I get the same recognition in my home town,” he says, now aiming for a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 11:52:27 PM |

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