Friday Review

Making space for classical art

Remesan Nambissan Photo: K.K. Najeeb

Remesan Nambissan Photo: K.K. Najeeb   | Photo Credit: K.K. NJAEEB


Remesan Nambissan has been popularising the classical theatre tradition of Kerala in the United Arab Emirates through ‘Thiranottam’, an NRI initiative.

Art is our most precious inheritance and it must be preserved at all costs. This is the guiding principle for Remesan Nambissan, one of the founders of ‘Thiranottam’, a non-resident Indian initiative to preserve, promote and propagate classical arts, especially Kathakali and Koodiyattam.

This not-for-profit organisation started in 2007 owes its genesis to casual weekend get-togethers and animated discussions among art lovers in Dubai. “We used to meet and talk about Kathakali and our memories of having watched performances,” says Remesan. From these shared sessions of nostalgia arose the idea of starting a project to bring over artistes to Dubai audiences, thus providing a platform for the former and an exposure to traditional art for the latter. “This is not only a nostalgia-powered group activity that will wilt away soon. Promoting art and fostering it is a serious issue and we take it as our mission,” Remesan adds.

Thiranottam aims at promoting a greater understanding and appreciation of classical arts and prevent its decay. To this end, it organises major multi-day events in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and India. “Audiences have got into the habit of seeing three- to four-hour edited versions of ‘Nalacharitham’ in Kathakali. We put up a full version, lasting 40 hours, which very few people get to watch nowadays.”

Thiranottam organises workshops wherein young artistes perform under the watchful eyes of veterans who give them critical appraisal. An edition was recently organised in Thrissur. Lecture-demonstrations are held to educate interested audiences. ‘Utsavam’, an annual international Koodiyattam and Kathakali festival in the UAE, is appreciated in packed theatres. In addition, 10-day residential workshops take young people through the rigours of artistic tutelage, as well as to prepare them physically and mentally for their vocation.

“In our effort to take the classical arts to the masses, Thiranottam also conducts ‘Kaliyogam’ where Kathakali performances are held in small towns of Kerala. This widens the audience base and enables lesser known artistes to perform,” says Remesan. “Many artistes shy away from taking up art seriously because of financial constraints. Hence, we are sponsoring two artistes in a year by providing 10 stages for them,” he adds. Thiranottam is fully funded by art-lovers, mainly from the UAE.

“Documenting images and texts, practices and theories is vital for the preservation of art forms. Thiranottam helps publish such books, one example being a scholarly work by Vellinezhi Achuthankutty, KathakaliKaipusthakam. Earlier we had published Kathakalippadangal compiled by Dr. Achuthankutty, which contains the libretto of more than 36 attakathas. Now it has become the reference text of Kathakali singers, students, teachers and enthusiasts. Mudrapedia, a work in association with Vazhengada Kunju Nair Trust, is an attempt to digitalise the entire range of mudras and make them available to anyone at the click of a button,” explains Nambissan.

This venture was started by Malayali expatriates working in Dubai, but Remesan has quit his lucrative job in an MNC to pursue his passion. The fraternity functions without the usual trappings of office bearers and such like. They work jointly with the Consulate General of India-Dubai to conduct a variety of programmes there.

“I don’t have a problem with film-based cultural programmes being exported to Dubai by the dozen, and they do entertain the Malayali audience, but is that all, India, or, rather, Kerala has to offer to her young generation? Being a repository of such a rich culture, can we not come to be identified by it, rather than just mimicry shows and cinematic dances?” wonders Remesan.

He has now started another organisation, Poorvi, to promote classical music, dance and other art forms of India, including Kathakali and Koodiyattam. Further, he plans to widen the network to conduct similar events and workshops in other Indian states and abroad, creating a path for cultural exchange. For this dedicated art lover, Thiranottam is only a small step in the right direction.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 4:51:53 AM |

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