21 January, 2021

Why Does Doubt Grow On You, O Manasa?

Change is the only constant, even at the heart of arts stabilised by tradition. Kathakali critically examines itself in the mirror....

New Window
Contemporary concerns have prompted young Kathakali artistes to take a fresh view of their art
Photographs by Naveen Rudran, Raghu Ganesh, C.N. Shyamkumar
Why Does Doubt Grow On You, O Manasa?
  • The guru is enraged: the small, reed-thin student has messed up a critical bit of sequence yet again. The 15-year-old is being taken through a vital part of Kathakali training: the anti-hero’s part in Keechakavadham, which, the boy would only later learn, has an exalted status within the canon. At one point, the lecherous Keechaka has to teasingly simulate a female character, and that’s where the boy is repeatedly slipping up. The guru thra­shes him black and blue—only to feel remorseful by evening, when both hug and weep in reconciliation. Followed by piping-hot parippuvadas, rolled in yesterday’s newspaper.

That’s a 65-year-old incident; a time when Katha­kali—that beautiful, mysterious dark art forged on the crossroads of dance and theatre—was in a phase of critical renascence as it met a modern epoch. A time of self-aware attention to pedagogy, to the setting of norms, to codification. Over the decades, as the form attained a rare kind of respect from the world, that kid too went on to become a...



To read this piece, and more such stories in India's most exciting and exacting magazine, plus get access to our 25-year archives goldmine, please subscribe.

More from Sreevalsan Thiyyadi

Latest Magazine

January 25, 2021

other articles from the issue

articles from the previous issue

Other magazine section