Japanese honour for ‘Kutiyattam’ maestro

via www.newindpress.com published on May 8, 2007

Thiruvananthapuram:Gopal Venu, eminent exponent of Kerala’s classical Sanscrit theatre Kutiyattam, has been chosen for prestigious Nikkei Asia prize for 2007, instituted by Japan’s leading publishing house Nikkei INC.

The UNESCO took it as a mission to foster the protection and development of the cultural diversity of the world.

For the last 25 years, it has stressed on the need to safeguard intangible heritage. In 2001, Kutiyattom was nominated as a UNESCO master piece of oral and intangible heritage of humanity.

Dr P Venugopalan has authored a Kutiyattom Register for UNESCO. The book published by Margi Thiruvananthapuram was released recently.

The book has seven chapters. The first one gives the origin and development of Kutiyattam, and the art forms related to it. It also provides a detail description of the percussion ensemble, make-up, costumes and stage properties. It concludes with a write-up on Koothambalams.

The second section deals with the Sanskrit dramas and the representative repertoire Margi.

The third chapter is a significant one in the sense that the author has given description of all the 18 illustrious Chakyar and Nangiar-Nambiar families, their performing items, places of performance, the number of days they take for each and whether the tradition is still continued by them.

The next chapters include the list of Kutiyattam institutions, living artistes of Kutiyattam, contemporary scholars of Kutiyattam and its documentation and Bibliography.

Dr Venugopalan has done justice to this work and it will be a valuable possession for the artistes and connoisseurs.

The only negative point is the use of black and white photographs, especially while mentioning about makeup, costumes and stage properties.

Venu was chosen for the honour in view of his contribution for preservation and revitalization of Kutiyattam, which has a 2000-year history and recognized by UNESCO as a “oral and intangible human heritage” a few years back.

The award carries three million Japanese Yen (about Rs 10.30 lakh) and a citation.

Disclosing this at a press meet, Venu said he considered the award as an honour for Kutiyattam and the amount would be spent for promotion of the art form and related researches and studies.

Others chosen for the prize this 2007 are Mechal Viravaidya of Thailand for his efforts to bridge gap between poor farmers and rich city dwellers and Taiwan’s Chang Chun-Yen for his strong leadership in semiconductor research.

Indians who had received the honour in the past were Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (1997), Infosys founder N R Narayanamurthy (2001) and Women’s Rights campaigner and publisher Urvasi Bhutalia (2003).

Insitututed in 1996, Nikkei prize honours people in Asia who have made significant contributions in science, technology innovation and culture.

Director of art school ‘Natana Kairali’ at Irinjalakkuda in Thrissur district, Venu is considered an authority on Kutiyattam and has taken his troupe to hundreds of stages in India and abroad.

The book is in English and hence wider reach is expected. The book with 211 pages in art paper is priced at Rs.700
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