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Kalyana Krishna Dance & Music Festival 2015

A Report

View more Photos - 2015 Photo Gallery >>

First Day

Inaugural Meeting
Kalyana Krishna Foundation conducted its 10th 3-day annual Nirthya Sangeetha Utsav at Changapuzha Park, Edappaly on December 11th, 12th, and 13th. As evening shows are common occurrences in the park, the seats were generously filled with art lovers of all ages;yet most particularly an older and more knowledgeable crowd. The Kalyana Krishna Nirthya Sangeetha Utsav is a tributary to the legendary dancing couple, Krishnan Nair of Kathakali, and Kallyanikutty Amma of Mohiniyattam, thus the name of the Foundation “Kalyana” and “Krishna”. And it would seem fitting that their daughter, Smt. Sreedevi Rajan, would join lighting the lamp along with chief guest and Padma Vibushan award winner, Sri.V.P Dhanajayans, and special guest Prof. M.K. Sanu; the protean personality who enriched Malayalam literature through his versatile writing. The 10th year of the Utsav began with speeches of said guests along with the board members of the Foundation, Sri. K.N. Bahuleyan and Smt. Sreedevi Rajan. The meeting concluded with an introductory presentationfor “Gurupranamam”, a 200-page collection of articles filled with “lekhanams”, or write-ups, regarding the famous couple. Each guest wasgifted a copy and the book is now for sale to be used mainlyin schools or Gurukulam's, for students and art loversto read and understand the lives of these quintessential artists. The book provides anecdotes from each writer, sharing his or her experience from the grand-masters' lives. The book also containsessays from Krishnan Nair's and Kallyanikutty Amma's contemporaries, some of whom who are unfortunately not with us today, stating words of wisdom whence encountering the legendary couple.
"Gurupranamam" is essentially a homage that sheds light on and reminds the world of the contributions put forth by Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair and Kalamandalam Kallyanikutty Amma in their respective art forms.

The first event of the Utsav began with Kathakali's “Usha and Chithralekha” an episode from the Bhanayudam. Sri. Margi Vijaykumar (Winner of 2015 Kalyana Krishna Endowment Award) potrays Chithralekha’s prows for painting when she draws a portrait of a manfromUsha’s dream. Kalamandalam Shanmughan (Winner of the 2015 Changarapalli Aniyan Award) plays Usha, who through the course of the story realizes with the help of Chithralekha’s painting that her true love is Anirudha, the man from her dreams. It is a sweet love story that brings forth talent from both the dancers. However, what’s most fascinating about Kathakali, as an art form, is how much a play can divert from the story, and at times, completely sidetrackthe plot. Yet, these frequent occurrences are far from being a nuisance.Kathakali's beauty is that it is a theater drama, where instead of lines or dialogues, performers communicate to each other and the audience, through mudras. Its enjoyment depends on the artists' creativity and overall chemistry built on-stage. Even though this particular play was short and there were only two dancers performing, the uniqueness and beauty of the performance cannot be described in words. I remember as I sat with the packed audience, utterly en-captivated by the music sung by Sri. Kottakkal Madhu and Sri. Kalamandalam Vishnu. Their voices echoed throughout the Park, and at time it seemed as if they were conducting the play rather than the dancers. Now, moving aside from the play and upon looking at this art form’s future, it's heartbreaking to realize that Kathakali will inevitably become a dying art form, and some might even state that it already is. Granted, "Yes", there are still quite a few devoted followers in this present time, listeners, and dancers of Kathakali following Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair's era.The major issue nowadays is that plays lasting at least two hours do not hold the attention of the majority of viewers. As generations go by, this small issue will soon become a major issue for the people, and unfortunately for the art form itself. However lovely the music might sound, or how creative the play is, these issues will soon come to change Kathakali's style of dance from the core. Until then, viewers should sit down for however long these classical masterpieces ensue and enjoy as much of the experience in the present day as possible.

Second Day

Bharatanatyam The 2nd day consisted of its prime time show, set for Sri. V.P. Dhanajayan along with his wife, Smt. Shanta, and accompanying dancers. The show had people stacked to the brink as some were standing way back from the auditorium itself, barely being able to see the performance.
Bharatanatyam, as a dance form, has its roots planted deeply in Nirthya, with intricate jathi's, thalams, and steps. The art form is physically demanding, and it won't be “complete” without its signature pure Nirthya. Sri. Dhanajayansand Smt. Shanta were accompanied by their disciples Shafeequddin, and his wife Shabana. The young couple opened the show to pull off an energetic performance, showcasing the art forms' physicality in its steps and item with perfection. The Dhanajayans' couple took the spot-light towards the second item and seized control of the show from there on. The gurus mesmerized the audience members with the “bhava” and “abhinaya” they had perfected over decades. And thus, the couple concluded their performance with their iconic final pose.

Jugalbandi The second performance of the day was a Jugalbandi of Kuchipudi and Oddissi performed by Smt. Chandralekha and Kumari. Abhayalakshmi, respectively. The show was performed with recorded music with the beginning and last items consisting of the Jugalbandi. The performances overall were visually enchanting with the smooth, and fluid dance steps of each dance styles. The two performers stood out with their individual talents, namely, technique and abhinaya by Smt. Chandralekha and motions of the mudras and intricate dance poses by Kumari . Abhayalakshmi. As the items progressed, these small indifference's were only present in the dancer’s solo items. Once they were performing together, however, the Jugalbandi's overall scenario had changed, and both performers did a marvelous job at showcasing the aerobic nature of the dance forms. The collaboration of these two dance forms was well choreographed as the smoothness of the choreography resembled that of a snake’s slithering movement. All together, these two upcoming dancers showcased a beautiful performance of talent, and physicality in their dance.

Third Day

The final performance of the Kalyana Krishna Foundation’s 10th annual program was focused on Mohiniyattam by Smt. Smitha Rajan, granddaughter of Kallyanikutty Amma. Mohiniyattam is a fluid and melodious dance style from Kerala and has its roots deep into “abhinaya” and the swaying movement of the dancer. The first item gave the audience a presentation of well-choreographed Nirthya and Jathi's, but the final two items gave us an entirely different being. There was an item in particular where Smt. Rajan's “abhinaya” was nearly indistinguishable from acting to actual tears. The orchestra was right behind all of this with accurate percussion and even more melodious songs. I recall an item were the dancer took her place in the stage before the song began, for “Poothanamoksham”, and stood in the pose of “Durga” under a blood-red spotlight inside the stage. Suddenly, the whispering and chattering audience in between items, fell silent like a vacuum in space. The level of performance that she put on was astounding, where in the heat of the item, she transformed herself into the character being portrait. Instead of an open stage, the viewer witnesses the actual scenes that are being described in the story. This level of craft is a gift that is born and developed inside an artist, and is something that cannot be taught. With this performance, Smt. Smitha Rajan, yet again, tells us why she is the “flag-bearer” of Kallyanikutty Amma's style of Mohiniyattam.
And thus, brought forth the end of the star-studded Utsav of dancers, musicians, and artists in all areas of Indian art. The 10th year showcased the wide variety of performers, and exceptional standards set for years to come. With Kalyana Krishna Foundation's pranams to the couple that started this all, Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair and Kalamandalam Kallyanikutty Amma, we hope that next year’s Utsav will be even grander.

By Abinav Jyotis


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