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Crossing cultural barriers
by Manu Remakant
It was a unique experience for
young artistes of 'Rangaprabhath' when artistes of the Japan-based
Kamigata-mai helped them stage a Japanese story.
It was a unique spectacle for the rustic audience
of Venjaramood in Thiruvananthapuram, when a group of nine artists
from Japan performed their traditional art form. For the young
artistes of 'Ranghaprabhath', a children's theatre that has been
functioning in the village for the last 34 years, the interaction
with the new teachers from across the seas was an experience they
would cherish for a very long time.
Doyen of theatre
The occasion was the 16th death anniversary
of G. Shankara Pillai, he doyen of Malayalam theatre and the inspiration
behind the concept of Rangaprabhath. Renowned Malayalam film directors
Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Shyamaprasad reminded the audience about
the contributions of the late G. Shankara Pillai in materialising
the dream of a children's theatre in he country.
The four-day-long workshop began with the artists
of Kamigatamaitomonokai, trying to cross language and cultural
barriers to reach out to the young
artistes of Rangaprabhat. The Japan-based organisation is trying
to popularise the traditional dance form, Kamigata-mai. The Japanese
artistes had to train the 46 young children to stage a Japanese
story.or young artistes of 'Rangaprabhath' when artistes of the
Japan-based Kamigata-mai helped them stage a Japanese story.
"We thought communication would become a big
problem between the Japanese artistes and our children," says
K. Kochunarayana Pillai, founder president of the theatre.
Language was a problem and soon they switched to non-verbal communication
that relied on the eyes, mudras and body language. Keiin Yoshimura,
he team-leader and he choreographer says that it was smooth sailing
from hen on. "The children were very responsive and just
one look into heir eyes was sufficient for me to read their minds."
On the third day, the 54-year-old artiste from
Alasaka, Keiin Yoshimura, mesmerized the audience with her brilliant
performance of Kamigata-Mai. Clad in a Kimono and holding a beautiful
umbrella she danced to the soft music of Jutha*,
a traditional musical instrument of Japan.
Two Japanese stories were performed and the
one in which she depicted the story of a nun reminiscing of her
past love, transcended all barriers and mesmerised the audience.
On the last day, towards the evening, as the workshop came to
an end, the children were ready to perform the Japanese story
on stage. After the traditional 'Keli kottu,' which announced
the beginning of the performance, the blowing of a conch by a
Buddhist monk from Japan preceded the play. The lack of dialogue
was effectively compensated by some melodious songs in Malayalam,
which accompanied and interpreted the actions on stage.
There were more than 40 students performing
in different groups. One group represented sunshine and another
group represented night.
The movements were slow, which were in sharp
contrast with the brisk movements of 'foxes' and the rhythmic
dance of 'rain' that weaved in and out of the stage.
At one point, the presence of sunshine and rain,
foxes and weeping brides on stage revealed the plot in one sweep
- the marriage of the fox. "I was pleasantly surprised when I
learnt that the Japanese have the same story about the marriage
of the fox when there is sunshine and rain at the same time,"
says Kochunarayana Pillai.
But Keiin Yoshimura is not that surprised. "Beyond
all differences, if you go deep, really deep you can see strains
of cultural and aesthetic values that both the countries share.
Real art explores that.
The performance concluded with a beautiful song
in Japanese rendered by the young artistes of Rangaprabhath.
"Had it not been for the sponsorship of the
Japan foundation, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Tourism
Department, the dream of bringing the Japanese artists to this
remote village would not have materialised," says Ravi Gopalan
Nair who is the coordinator of the Japanese team's itinerary in
= popular song sung by the people of Kamigata (area of the Japanese
cities Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe) to the accompaniment of the
the traditional three string instrument that creates with it's
buzzing sound [sawari] a sensory space.