Kannur-based danseuse Haritha Thamban curates thematic presentation of Pottan Theyyam through Bharatanatyam
Young dancer Haritha Thamban curated a thematic presentation of Pottan Theyyam through Bharatanatyam at Soorya Ganesham auditorium in the capital city.
KOCHI: “You and I will bleed red blood when stabbed..We both are made of panchaboothas then why are we discriminated in the name of caste and creed,” goes the lyric of the ritual song, Pottan Theyyam. The striking lyrics was conveyed better when Kannur-based danseuse Haritha Thamban dressed in black saree took her fierce performance to the stage for the art aficionados of the capital city. As part of the ongoing Soorya festival, Haritha recently presented a thematic presentation of Pottam Theyyam in Bharatanatyam repertoire at Soorya Ganesham auditorium.
To propagate the age-old artform Theyyam across the country and beyond Haritha curated a one-hour-long self-choreographed performance titled Chilambu, exploring the richness of the artform. Through myriad expressions and mudras Haritha shares the origin of Pottam Theyyam and how Lord Shiva disguised as Chandalan to test Sree Shankaracharya’s integrity. Haritha experimented with both Bharatanatyam and a few Kathakali mudras to convey the heated conversation between Chandalan and Shankaracharya.
The production is titled Chilambu to resonate with the Theyyam artist who dons Chilambu and perform for the betterment of society. “Being an artist I want the content I release to leave an impact in the society and bring a change for the better. Pottan Theyyam deals with the themes of caste discrimination and untouchability. Through ‘Chilambu’ I intend not only to preserve a ritual artform through Bharatanatyam, it is also an attempt to bash the social injustices,” shares Haritha who is a rank holder in MA Bharatanatyam from Kannur University.
According to the youngster, Chilambu is also a move against caste discrimination. The conversation between the intoxicated Chandalan and Shankaracharya highlights social evils like casteism and racism and also addresses the importance of secularism. Haritha’s unique presentation of the swapping of characters from a drunken Chandalan to saint Sankaracharya was commendable. Haritha has also won the Asia and India Book of Records for performing the highest number of dance recitals that focused on social issues.
Without losing the significance of Pottam Theyyam a bit, Haritha avoided the costume extravaganza involved in Bharathanatyam. She donned herself in a simple black saree with intricate golden lines, paired with minimal jewellery. “I used black intentionally as I wanted to give more prominence to the dance moves. Manikkayr and kalthala are the pieces of jewellery I chose to portray the element of Theyyam,” says Haritha.
Haritha’s solo Bharatanatyam performance is given a new lease of life with the classical and thottam pattu rendition by Sivej Krishna Dev and Manuraj respectively. Though Chilambu was debuted in 2019, this time Haritha brought in several improvisations to the performance to connect with audiences who are not familiar with the conventional structure of Theyyam.
From the entire performance penning lyrics for Chilambu was the most challenging, claims Haritha. “I decided to keep Thottam song for the performance after I saw my friend Manuraj who is also a Theyyam artist singing the same. As the song is passed down to generations orally, it was difficult to understand the native accent. To make it simpler for the audience I tweaked in Dravidian lyrics with the help of Manuraj, Ashokan Thaliparamb, Gopi Vengara and my mother. Veteran musician Kanjangad Ramachandran’s composition of Thottam and carnatic element aided me to choreograph Chilmabu,” says Haritha who is also a teacher.