Disciples of Art

Disciples of Art 4

 Kathakali Staring right into the deep crevices that further marres the already tawny ,dilapidated roof and walls surrounding him, he lies hysterically on the floor ,with an unflinching eye but an exhausted heart.” It’s over.This is the end” ,he reminds himself “ and now I am like these walls — old, torn apart and blank with life slowly ebbing away “.His Life, his Love, his passionate counterpart. The one thing that has kept him alive all these years. Infact it would be demeaning to call it a ‘Thing’. Kathakali is not a ‘Thing’ ,and definitely not for Him.It is his mystical world, a pathway to the metaphysical and the spiritual, a revered art form, and his profession for the last 30 years….and today it has all come to a standstill, a perpetual pause…..It is his last dance as a Kathakali artist . An eternal farewell to the stage and audience that have lauded him for years.
As the thick layers of makeup gets brushed across his face by the Chouttikkaran, and the hues green and red gleam brightly from his cheeks denoting his kathi vesham for the last dance, tears well up in his eyes whispering to him that this is his last chamayam.Red,Green,White and Black, these form his rainbow. He would certainly miss it — the smell of the vermillion,the soot and chutti that have painted his face for decades, the red,black and white beard, his roles in the demonic Kari, the sathvik Pachaa, and the challenging feminine Minukku – they all will be mere memorable tales to be passed on, by the break of the dawn.
The man is disappointed, shattered like million little glass pieces. He closes his eyes to hide his feelings, to wear a brave face.His mind journeys through the hurdlesome yet glorious path that he has traversed over the years.He had entered this field as a young boy, following the footsteps of his ancestors, unaware of the toils that laid ahead.It was not a cake walk at the beginning. Intense training based on Kalaripayittu and attainment of the 24 controlled mudras and rasas as per Natyashastra demanded immense stamina and concentration.There were times when his performances were not applauded,there were times when he was not even offered one,there were even times when he flawed on the stage. However, he was zelaous and dedicated and made his way through nine years of training followed by twenty-one years of performance. The stagings of Nalacharitha ,Duryodhana Vadham and Kalyana Sougandhikam, the Carnatic and Sopanam music and the huge throng of crowds in the temples became part of his daily routine where in he discovered his passion and solace …. And all through the years,the words of his master reverberated in his ears – “We dance for laughter, we dance for tears, we dance for madness, we dance for fears, we dance for hopes, sometimes we lead ,sometimes we follw..we are the dancers, we create the dreams…….”

In a far away corner…. a new life brews in a Young painter …He dips his varied brushes in the little cans of dyes close to the canvas and starts his masterpiece — the portrait of a Kathakali dancer .He had been eager to find the right one ,to present something exotic, unknown to his culture.Travelling back and forth , he had finally discovered the essence ….and now he sits there,on the edge of his three-legged chair ,working on his magnum opus.
With eyes of a hawk, he starts meticulously from the top slowly trailing down to the striking chamayam. As the time ticks , he becomes more keen and observant,feeling a sense of fulfillment that has been concealed from him for years.He knows this would be a turning point, something that would elevate him from the position of an apprentice…His first biggest success.
Each stroke of the brush by the artist is like a knife through the heart of the dancer.For he has danced, it is over,the last dance has been done.

As he wears off the makeup, slowly removing the colours,taking time…for he want to savour every minute of it, the painter progresses with his work,rendering life to the canvas, painting the dance pose .He strikes the chord with the right colour and expression and slowly establishes the equilibrium.The balance where the dancer has taken off his mask, the chamayam. It is no more on his face. However the painter is elated, his work is complete.The last dance has been caught in the canvas.

The Kathakali Dancer has been immortalized.The painter has been inspired.

Ambika Raja

Written by Ambika Raja

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