Friday, 23 June 2017

Fragrance of Fifty Roses - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Kalamandalam in Kolkata – a bit of Kerala transplanted into fertile Bengal – was, in the beginning, far less an institution and more like a dream for its founder-guru Govindan Kuttty. Armed with a thorough grounding in Kathakali from Kerala Kalamandalam and accompanied by an 18-year-old Thankamani – with her own exposure to dance for four years at Kalamandalam and an extra year on mridangam -- as his consort, the duo landed in the eastern metropolis in 1958. The language barrier was gradually overcome and the classical dance trainings by the Kuttys went on in right earnest, while the epithet “Kalamandalam” stuck in the meantime! Also, because of his immense talent as a Kathakali hero, Govindan was much sought after by Kolkata’s Gita Bitan and other institutions, mostly for Tagore’s dance-dramas. Govindan’s sudden passing away in 2007 was decidedly a major blow. Yet, 50 years and some 15,000 trained students later, Kalamandalam Calcutta has come to stay rooted in the city’s culturescape and today -- with its spread-eagled seven centres and nearly 2,000 students at any given moment – it is a major force for classical arts to reckon with.

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