Sunday 9 July 2023

Article - Elegance, aesthetic density and beyond - V. Kaladharan

It's now a little over three decades I've been watching legends in the highly evolved performing arts of Kerala on and off stage. It is saddening to note that all of them except Kalamandalam Gopi, the marvel of Kathakali stage, are no more. This vast experience plus my inescapable fixations might have created in me a deep impression that our aesthetically refurbished art forms are inextricably linked to their nativity so much so that it is nigh impossible for non-natives to imbibe the aesthetic intricacies of the artform they have chosen to delve deep into. I can never imagine a non-Malayalee perfectly identifying with the chaturavidhaybhinaya of Kutiyattam or Kathakali despite his/her intensive training in and fierce devotion to these complex art traditions. Am I becoming a cultural fundamentalist?

I thought the same is true when it comes to the stylized performing arts of other States too. For instance, Bharatanatyam, performed nowadays by every Tom, Dick and Harry, is the prerogative of those born and brought up and groomed in Chennai. Although nothing prevents aspirants from Karnataka, Kerala or Andhra Pradesh from undergoing training in and conducting recitals of Bharatanatyam, the quintessence of the dance form concerned, I had a pre-conceived notion, is impeccably safeguarded by the exceptionally talented dancers hailing from Chennai. Just recently Shweta Prachande, the young dancer from Pune, disabused me or to be more precise, shattered my conviction. She, in fact, inflicted a deep wound on my pride.

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