Myriad Expressions of Nangiarkoothu

Vidhya Jinesh | Apr 01, 2014 | Vol 6, Issue 2
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The monthly presentation of the Sreekrishna Charitham Nangiarkoothu by Kalamandalam Prasanthi commenced with the performance in Thrissur (Kerala, India), January this year. It is planned to be conducted in twenty parts over the entire year.

Nangiarkoothu is one of the temple art forms of Kerala, presented as a dramatic monologue, traditionally performed by the Nangiars, the womenfolk of the Nambiar community. Nangiarkoothu developed as separate style of performances from the genere of Koodiyattam, the Sanskrit-theatre of Kerala, which has been recognized by UNESCO as an intangible heritage of mankind. This classical dramatic dance performance is done solely by female artists. The danseuse through her exquisite hand gesture, facial expressions and the main body movements to the accompaniment of the resonant pot drum Mizhavu, describes the story. The 'Sreekrishna Charitham' (the story of Lord Srikrishna) Nangiarkoothu starts from the 'Purappadu' (the Beginning) of Kalpalathika, taken from the second chapter of Kulashekhara Varman's Subhadra-Dhananjayam. In this, the artist portrays the character of 'Kalpalathika' who narrates the whole story. 

In Nangiarkoothu, the lone performer clad in resplendent attire, adorned with exquisite accessories, has to transform herself to all characters, be it as a  male or female, the supporting character or even as a child to act out the story. Performing as one and all, enacting all the characters with innumerable facial expressions, poses significant challenge to the artist. At the same time, the absolute freedom of expression for the artist elevates this unique art form to an extraordinary plane.

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In modern times, revived by the relentless efforts of venerated artists of this traditional performing art, the art form of Nangiarkoothu was elevated from a state of mere temple ritual to a widely accepted and popular dance form with several national and international performance platforms. In 1980 Guru Padmashri P.K. Narayanan Nambiar, a great exponent of Koodiyattam and Mizhavu did an exemplary work by compiling the 'Sreekrishna Charitam Nangiarkoothu.

With an objective of making this dance form more popular among the art-lovers and with a purpose of conducting deeper research in the field, the entire Sreekrishna Charitham Nagiarkoothu is envisioned to be conducted as a series extending for a period of one year by Nagiarkoothu artist - Kalamandalam Prasanthi. Kalamandalam Prasanthi is an accomplished Nangiarkoothu danseuse of the new generation who has performed in various national and international stages.

Prasanthi hails from Chelakkara, Thrissur district of Kerala and has completed MA in Koodiyattam female roles from Kalamandalam which includes 10 years of Gurukulam system. Married to Kalamandalam Jayaraj, a Mizhau artist, Prasanthi is now doing research on the history & evolvement of Sreekrishna Charitham.

The story Sreekrishna Charitham consists of 217 slokas and is divided to 20 chapters or parts starting from Purappadu and ending with Subhadrapaharanam. The monthly presentation of the Sreekrishna Charitham Nagiarkoothu by  Kalamandalam  Prasanthi and her team commenced with the performance in Thrissur Thekkemadam, Kerala on 30 Jan 2014 and it is planned to be conducted in twenty parts over the entire year.

The other accompanying artists for the performance of Kalamandalam Prasanthi are Kalamandalam Jayaraj and Kalamandalam Manikandan performing Mizhavu, Kalanilayam Rajan on Edakka, the percussion instrument and Thalam or the cymbals by Kalamandalam Sangeetha. Venue for the monthly programme is Thekkeswamiyar madom at Thrissur and the timing is 6.30pm. The efforts put in by these artists to bring alive the art form of Nangiarkoothu and popularize it is commendable.

For more info/programme dates call: 09847554571, 09496314571 (Mr.Kalamandalam Jayaraj);

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