One of the rarest stories from Indian mythology unfolded itself in an exquisite performance by Kapila Venu at the Ranga Shankara on Saturday.
Kapila brought to Ranga Shankara the 2000-year-old theatre form practiced by a mere 50 people in the country today. Kutiyattam, the peculiar theatrical rendition of Sanskrit text presented with a distinct local flavour from Kerala, is a rich form of art recognised by UNESCO as one of the ‘Masterpieces of oral and intangible heritage of humanity’. Unlike most other performing arts from the era, women have always played the roles of female characters, sometimes even solo, in Kutiyattam. Kapila Venu’s Pootana Moksham was one such rendering.
For a noticeably small audience, a large number of whom were children, Kapila Venu’s Pootana Moksham was an expressive narration of a mythological story. One step ahead of mere story telling, Kapila played out each character ranging from young Lord Krishna to the demon Kamsa all by herself with such grace. Switching from one character to the other, displaying multiple emotions of pain, fear, joy, shock, surprise and even death through complex body movements and facial expressions, Kapila brought the story alive on stage. With perfectly synchronised accompaniment in the percussions (the mizhavu and the edakka), Kapila narrated a story rather poignantly without uttering a word.
Such precision and excellence does not come without rigorous training. Kapila notes that she has been training as a dancer since she was three and a half years old. She is taking formal training in Kutiyattam from the age of seven from renowned artists like Late. Guru Ammannur Madhava Chakyar, her father and veteran performer G.Venu and Usha Nangiar. Currently, she is undergoing specialised training with Kitangur C.N.Rama Chakyar.
A petite lady with a lovely dimpled smile, Kapila believes and worships the art form she practices. She states with much pride that she would give her life for Kutiyattam and she believes that every performance is a sacrifice. She presents every show on stage with all sincerity and hopes the audiences will see it that way.
The audiences were sure to have been impressed. The children in the first row watched the play with their eyes wide in awe. When asked about his reaction to the play, Arjun, an IT employee, said, “everything seems to be fast these days. From fast track service to fast food to fast and the furious, we live in a world where gratification needs to be instant. But this play was slow and engaging at the same time. Kapila enacted each scene, each expression and each character with such depth that it gave us the time to sink in the feeling.”
Pootana Moksham is a great blend of exceptional acting, traditional theatre, soul-stirring music, great Indian mythology and emotional story telling. In an increasingly modernised world, Kutiyattam is a great reminder of the richness of culture in this country and the need to perhaps look back.
P.S: How about you all buy a copy? :)