16 June, 2021

Sunlight Alone Doesn’t Make Them Ebony

Summer marks a high tide for Kerala ensembles at temple festivals. Casteism flows as an undercurrent.

This jumbo concert in 2012 made it to the Limca Book of Records
Sunlight Alone Doesn’t Make Them Ebony

Indignation laces his pride when Vinayakan says rhythm runs deep in his blood as a Pulaya. The south Ind­ian film artiste, who won the Kerala government’s 2016 best actor award, is referring to his und­erprivileged community. The 43-year-old, possibly the first Dalit to win such a laurel in Ind­ian cinema, goes on to rec­all about his mother dancing Ona­kkali, stomping on the slushy paddy fields of Kochi. “It makes work enj­oyable; it’s also a sign of our generations-old sense of taalam,” Vinaya­kan notes. “I always found joy in the rhythmic variations of the trains that would chug down the tracks bang in front of my (tiny) house.”

Hardly eight km south of the railway line at Vinayakan’s Pullepadi home is Tripunithura that was the capital of the Cochin kingdom. A feudal hangover ref­uses to vacate the small town that is fast turning into a residential hub. Last Dec­ember, six months after dusky Vinayakan’s honour-fetch­ing Kamma­ttipadam released depicting the...

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