This is the fourth in a series of films about the role of dance in Asia’s cultures. Dance is deeply intertwined with religion, folklore, and language in many cultures. This film is about Kutiyattam (pronounced Koodiyattam), a traditional dance form in the southern state of Kerala, India, where it is performed in the temples.
The film follows the story of Vipin, a young boy who is interested in learning the dance form from a maestro of Kutiyattam: Rama Chakya. We follow Vipin’s journey from his village to the Kutiyattam training institute, Kalamandalam. We get a glimpse into the rigorous training that pupils of this dance form undergo to become eligible to perform at the temples.
Kutiyattam is one of India’s most ancient dance-drama forms and is based on the treatise on theatre written over 2000 years ago—the Natyashastra. The primary purpose of Kutiyattam is worship and to retell the Rāmāyaṇa and other stories in a dance-drama form. As the film progresses, we see Vipin’s progress in learning the dance and its accompanying music and language. We are introduced to his teacher who is a maestro of the dance and recounts the story of kutiyattam.
This film offers an interesting overview into South India’s only traditional Sanskrit theatre. Since the 1960s, Kutiyattam training has been opened to other castes, from formerly being restricted to only members of the Chakya caste. This has allowed young boys like Vipin to learn the art form and carry forward its legacy.
Through this film, we are able to appreciate the effort that goes into maintaining and preserving this ancient art form. Revival in the form of international performances and its status by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity has ensured Kutiyattam’s survival into the modern era.
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