Kalaripayattu, with a difference
Witness a unique kalari performance this Sunday, that has contemporary movement thrown in the mix
BHU, the martial arts and dance show at Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall this Sunday, is a unique insight into the life of a troubled man who seeks to learn kalari but is instead taught to connect with the elements, especially the five basic ones like Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Aether. The change in his intent can be attributed to the kalaripayattu master he meets, who teaches him how to fight his demons, fears and ego in the process. This story came to Philippe Pelen Baldini, the artistic director of the performance, when he saw a kalari performance for the first time.
“When Lakshman Gurukkal, founder of Calicut-based kalari school Kalarigram, attended one our shows (that of our French dance and theatre company, The Water Carriers Company), he was impressed, and shared his wisdom and knowledge with us. That’s when we decided to conceptualise a contemporary show inspired by kalaripayattu as a tribute to Mother Earth, where we explored the martial art in its artistic form, Lasya Tatva,” Philippe says, adding, “Connected to the shakti (primordial or feminine energy) within the body of the warrior dancer, it’s traditional kalari presented in a contemporary way.”
The production team and cast of the play consists of members from both Kalarigram and The Water Carriers Company as well as Ritam, an Auroville-based group that researches the science of body movements. There are six performers on stage (from Pondicherry, Auroville and Kerala) — kalari artistes Nikhil Varagiri and Swaroop Kanan, Prakash Sathiya and Madhu Jayamurthy who are kalari performers and musicians, and Suresh Kalyath, a performer and kalari music specialist.
Performing along with them is French artiste Thierry Moucazambo, a performer, actor and singer, who is the co-founder of The Water Carriers Company. “It is an experimental play that combines modern, theatrical and choreographic tools with kalari to create a contemporary organic dance show,” he says, adding, “Expect to hear traditional South Indian music and Earth sounds recorded by NASA in space.”
Philippe and Thierry will kickstart the BHU tour today in Trivandrum, followed by Chennai, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Delhi and Kolkata. Talking about the positives of learning kalari, Thierry explains, “It helps to find an inner balance that leads us to respect both nature and the environment.” Which is what BHU is all about.
Presented by Alliance Française of Madras. May 6. 7.30 pm.