Twenty-five push-ups and five somersaults. That is the criteria to be part of a Parichamuttukali team, at least when Manarcad Kunjappan Asan is the trainer. The veteran has over 40 years’ experience in training performers.
Also known as Avarachan, this master trainer had a big role in getting Parichamuttukali introduced as an event at the State School Arts Festival, thus aiding the preservation of a dying artform.
Parichamuttukali is one of the three Christian art forms at the festival; the others being Margamkali and Chavittu Natakam. It has its origins in the 11th century and reached the peak of its glory in the 16th century. The art form adopts steps and body movements from Kalaripayattu, and hence physical fitness is key to becoming a good performer.
The performers undergo rigorous training for around two months to be able to deliver a perfect show in which they are dressed in loincloths and headbands and carry swords and shields. They use brisk songs with themes from the Bible in archaic Malayalam.
Manarcad Kunjappan Asan comes from a long bloodline of Parichamuttukali performers and trainers. During the initial years, Asan had trained teams from all districts in the State. He has conducted training sessions in over 150 schools across the State, besides preparing hundreds of students for college and university-level competitions. Most trainers in the field at present have been his students at some point of time.
Asan was quite busy on Saturday with four teams trained by him competing against one another at the higher secondary level competition of the State School Arts Festival. No sooner had his team from Kozhikode finished its performance than he had to aid the Kannur team. Yet, he was there cheering for each of them both in the audience and backstage. “They are all my children. I train them all the same,” he says.
Kunjappan Asan had trained four more teams in this season of the festival, for the high school category.