FRIDAY REVIEW

A slice of Malabar

K. SACHIDANAND MENON

FESTIVE SPIRIT Women performing the `Kaikottikali'. Photo: P.V. Sivakumar

FESTIVE SPIRIT Women performing the `Kaikottikali'. Photo: P.V. Sivakumar  

Another Sunday and it was time for yet another Onam fest. This time it was Maithri that pitched in to celebrate the harvest back in God's own country. It would have been really disappointing had the rain Gods intruded into King Mahabali's feast but that was not to be. The weather was sunny and just right to go with the spirit of the celebration. Perhaps, for once, the Gods decided to leave the king alone having earlier conspired to send him to the nether world.

The event got off to a traditional start at Malla Reddy Gardens when Governor Sushil Kumar Shinde and Malayalam actor Jayaram were welcomed with Thalappoli, two rows of women holding lighted lamps.

The first of the cultural events was the graceful Kaikottikali. This being the 10th anniversary of Maithri, it was evident that the next generation of Malayalee women had taken over the task of preserving the dance form in the twin cities. This was followed by an impromptu mimicry session by popular Malayalam hero Jayaram, who imitated yesteryear Malayalam hero Prem Nazir to loud applause. With the clock ticking past noon, the time was just right for announcing sadya, the feast. Chairs were emptied in a trice but most were occupied right back thanks to the crowd that queued up for the culinary fare, which covered everything from aviyal to ari payasam. As the rest of the crowd waited for their turn, Ambalapuzha Vijaya Kumar performed Sopana Sangeetham, a temple art form sun in front of sopana (steps in front of the sanctum sanctoram). The lyrics, also called asthapathi, are based on 13th century poet Jayadev's magnum opus Geeta Govindam. Edakka and chengila were the instruments used in this art form.

The post-lunch session was reserved for a quaint theatre art form called chavittunatakam (literally meaning `stamping the feet'). A medieval theatre with clear signs of Portugese influence, especially in the costumes, the performers usually enact Biblical stories, miracle and mystery plays of medieval Europe. The theme chosen for the occasion was Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. The performance was one of pleasant melodrama. The fest concluded with mimicry by Cochin Rasalaya, lucky dip and prize distribution.

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