Published: 01st March 2017
Kathakali on a canvas
Take a look into the life of the young Kathakali artist, Kalamadalam Aravind through ups and down of his career
If you have witnessed a Kathakali performance at least once in your life, the chances of you forgetting it are slim, with its out-of-this-world make-up and never-before-seen costumes. Years ago, intrigue captured a young boy who saw this art form on television. With unrelenting determination, he made this dream come true and trained in Kathakali. 27-year-old Kalamandalam Aravind is that dream-chaser, who has been honoured with prestigious awards like the Natya Mayooram award and National Nritya Shiromani award, both in 2014.
DOLLING UP: Kalamandalam Aravind getting ready for one of his performance
Performing on over 300 stages around the world is no ordinary feat for any artist. While Aravind shows favouritism towards the stage in his own village; the one he remembers with great charity is the one in Japan. “We had performed in Japan for the tsunami-affected people just a little while after the disaster. People were still grief-stricken and trying to get back on their feet after losing their homes and loved ones. But they rallied and attended the performance which they enjoyed. They compared it to their classical art form, Kabuki,” says Aravind.
Aravind has choreographed a show Radhamadhavam, combining elements of Kathakali, Kerala Natyam and other art forms with his own story
Aravind also feels that this generation, a generation which pursues art just to be showcased at youth festivals and score marks, is slowly destroying the respect and love such an art form deserves. He says, “I think the number of people who see art as a means to earn money are more than those who actually love the art form.” He also agrees to the fact that the demand for Kathakali in Kerala has drastically dropped in the recent years, even within the temple communities. Organisers would prefer to choose a music troupe over a Kathakali troupe to assemble a bigger audience, he points out. This declining demand for art makes it hard for the artists to fully depend and invest in the art. “It is very difficult to live just by the art itself because a Kathakali artist earns Rs 1500-2000 for a whole night’s performance,” explains Aravind.
A show was organised by the Malayali Samajam in the US for the Malayalees who had become interested in the art form through their foreign friends. They don’t see its worth until Westerners appreciate it
Kalamandalam Aravind, Kathakali artist
Kathakali has been around for centuries and there are people who still enjoy and appreciate the art form. But Aravind feels that it gets more appreciation from the foreign crowd. “Foreigners have the capacity to enjoy the art form. Even without knowing our epics they can still understand what we are trying to convey,” says Aravind.