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Stomping feet storm male bastion

Eves only troupe

CHARACTERS from the Mahabharata came to life when a six-member team of Kathakali artistes in their elaborate and colourful costumes performed a piece from the epic in the City on Saturday. But the toe rings on a male character gave away the identity of the performers.

The Kathakali troupe, which performed for the second time in the City on Saturday, has only women as performers and singers. The women performers belong to the Tripunithura Kathakali Kendram Ladies Troupe (TKKLT), the only women Kathakali group in Kerala.   

The troupe was brought to the City by Bangalore Club for Kathakali and the Arts (BCKA) with the purpose to mark centenary of International Women’s Day. “We decided to invite them to show women’s strength and determination in performing the art form, given that Kathakali is a male dominated performance,” said Meena Das Narayan, the Club’s trustee. 

Some of the women associated with the Tripunithura royal family showed interest in performing Kathakali and were helped to set up the TKKLT in 1975. The troupe, which began with eight women, now has 40 members. 

“In the beginning people were apprehensive. Many doubts were raised. But we have done well,” says Parvathi Menon, who has been with the group from the initial days. Also, owing to the history of the troupe, acceptance of women performers has improved and many young women are now learning Kathakali, she explains. 

Despite having performed 1,500 shows, Menon feels that she is still an amateur. While some women including Menon, regularly learn Kathakali at classes, some cannot afford it due to their responsibility at home and day jobs. 

Menon was working for an advertising agency till a year ago. Radhika Ajayan, another member is a Sanskrit teacher. Different avocations do not allow a common and regular practice. However, the troupe wants to motivate more women to take up the art form. 

(Published in Deccan Herald on 28th May, 2011)

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