Kochi Biennale helps add Ayyappa story to Chavittunatakam

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Kochi, Dec 27: India’s only surviving maritime theatre Chavittutatakam that traditionally employs Biblical themes saw the pioneering presentation of a Hindu-mythology story, courtesy the ongoing Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB).

The five-century-old Kerala stomp drama which has evolved in a Latin Catholic context along the coastal state’s west-central belt added to its repertoire ‘Sabarimala Sree Dharma Shastavu’, lending fresh aesthetics and costumes to the form that has evident influences of the European ballet.

As many as 40 artistes of Kerala Chavittunataka Academy in Gothuruthu of Ernakulam district danced with vigour while portraying plots around the life of Lord Ayyappa as the child of pivotal Hindu gods Shiva and Vishnu. Directly by the dance-drama’s esteemed guru Joseph Salim, the three-hour show on Friday night revelled in energetic movements and had the lyrics in Malayalam instead of the customary Tamil mixed with the state’s language.

The watershed show in Gothuruthu near North Paravur was organised as part of a performing arts festival being organised alongside the country’s only biennale which is currently holding its second edition in this city, mainly featuring 100 artworks by 94 artistes from India and abroad.

‘Chuvati 2014’, as the five-day event is titled, lines up five Chavittunatakam plays till the end of the festival on December 30. It was inaugurated by veteran Mohiniyattam danseuse Kalamandalam Sathyabhama and Chhau exponent Gopal Prasad Dubey at Kadalvathuruthu Holy Cross in Chinnathambi Annavi Square.

Curated by Mumbai-based Malayali ‘Keli’ K Ramachandran, Chuvati is being organised by the Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF) in association with Sports and Arts Club in Gothuruthu — a coastal village synonymous with Chavittunatakam, believed to have originated in the 16th century after the arrival of Portuguese on the Malabar Coast.

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Chavittunatakam, which traces its pioneer to medieval-era missionary Chinnathambi Annavi, is typically performed in open grounds or within the premises of the church.

KBF President Bose Krishnamachari and KMB’14 artistic director Jitish Kallat greeted Dubey and Sathyabhama respectively with a shawl and sceptre. While KBF Secretary Riyas Komu gave the introductory speech in his capacity as KMB’14 Director of Programmes, legislator V D Satheesah and Holy Cross Church Vicar Fr Joby Kallarakkal also spoke.

 ‘Chuvati’ staged ‘Plorippus’ (Cochin Chavittunataka Kalari, Fort Kochi) as its second play in the series on Saturday evening. The upcoming stories at Chuvati are ‘Visuddha Sebastionos’ (Kurumbathuruthu Yuvakerala Kalasamithi), ‘Jnanakumaran’ (Thruthipuram Chaithanya Theatres) and ‘Judith’ (Thuruthipuram Navarathna Kalasamskarika Vedi).