Tuesday, July 24, 2007

കഥകളിയുടെ രംഗ പാഠ ചരിത്രം - Killimangalam Vasudevan Namboodiri & M P S Namboodiri

Kathakali as an art form has had many followers all over the world. Me too have grown up watching, discussing , listening to Kathakali and related stories. However, there are very few serious writings on this field. For an art form with a history over 300 years , constantly improving and developing newer techniques and styles calls for many more studies and analysis. Majority of the information available to us are from the practitioners of the art itself and that too from the later part of the 20th century. While this is important and gives us a insider view, it is also important that we have the people from the 'follower' or 'connoisseur' community to write about this.

What is available now from this point of view is only a handful, lead by "Kathakali Rangam" by Sri K P S Menon. I personally know many capable and elderly personalities with their expertise and experience in this field. It is important to get this wealth of information / data / stories preserved for the coming generation.

I have just finished reading a brilliant book by Sri Killimangalam Vasudevan Namboodiripad with Sri M P S Namboodiri, titled "Kathakaliyude Rangapattha charithram". Sri Killimangalam Vasudevan Namboodiripad is kathakali personified with his experience as administrator and close proximity to the changes of this art. Sri MPS Namboodiri served as the Principal of Kerala Kalamandalam and is one of the leading performer of Kathakali.

Let me tell you up-front that I'm not qualified or learned enough to comment on this subject. I expect other experts to do that. However, I can say what impressed me in this book. The book looks back at the history of Kathakali and the changes it went through from the inception stages of "Ramanattam". It also looks at the different schools of training and performance and the improvements brought in by each schools. What is admirable is the way the book is structured. It examines the art from the writers ( Kartrupadham) , the performance ( Rangapadham), the training ( Shikshanapadham) and the audience (aswadanapadham). This complete the circle. From the 'Vageyakara's ( taking a cue from carnatic music) to the performers and followers he is looking at the progress of Kathakali focussing on Kottarakkara, Vettam , Kottayam, Kaplingad . Kalladikode and Kalluvazhi schools.

Understandably, majority of the quotes are taken from the 'Kathakali rangam' and with his interpretation, this books gives us the insight of the changes it had gone through over the centuries. However, most of the discussion and scope of this books is until the time of Kalamandalam and Sri Pattiykkamthodi Ravunni Menon , who is instrumental in setting up the training in Kalamandalam and one of the heroes of the Kalluvazhi style ( kallucazhichitta) of Kathakali.

What would have been included ( or is that a scope for another book ?) is post -Kalamandalam era ( 2nd half of 20th century) and the current status of the so called Southern Style ( Thekkan Chitta) of Kathakali. The other major change affected all traditional art, I think, is the introduction of advanced technology. From the amplification , lighting and the improvements in the dresses (using fiber thrown among many others) were also not been discussed. As I said, this is now visible to the current generation and there is ample time for another discussion on this subject.

Kathakaliyude Rangapathacharithram (2007)

Killimangalam Vasudevan Namboodiri & M P S Namboodiri

Mathrubhumi Books

Rs 125

256 Pages

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins

At last, I have finished reading the God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. It had been 3 weeks since I have taken up this book. I do not take up multiple projects ( reading some of these books are like projects, they need so much dedication and attention from you) at the same time and had very interrupted reading thanks to my travels and domestic schedules. Now that I have finished reading this let us get to the matters.

I do not want to get into another review of this book as it has been reviewed by many able people at various places. This book has already caused so much debate and I would not get into the debate of GOD affairs. However, Dawkins has done a courageous attempt to take the discussion of God hypothesis from the academics and theologist to the people. What used to remain a discussion among few is not have a wider audience.

While the book is about the GOD Delusion, I find the discussion and his 'anger' is less towards the concept of God but more towards the religion and rightly so. It is the religion and the religious community who vehemently protect their religion by violent means is under the discussion. He also points out that every war / fights in the ancient and moder worlds are always between religions or sects. ( While I prefer to look at them from an economic angle, I find this a strong enough point).

The other interesting discussion which I liked was on the morality. As a practice, morality is always linked to the religions beliefs and he proves the non existing relation between morality and religion.

Personally, I do not believe in 'God as an answer to anything unknown'. I believe that there are many phenomenon in the nature yet to be known to us and our constant effort to bring lights to these will lead us into many more discoveries.

However, I find this quote very interesting.
"You'd better believe in God, because if you are right you stand to gain eternal bliss and if you are wrong it wont make any difference anyway. On the other hand, if you don't believe in God and you turned out to be wrong, you get eternal damnation, where if you are right it makes no difference" - Blaise Pascal

In case you want to find out where do you stand, check this and decide..

1. Strong theist : 100% probability of God. I dont believe, I know.

2. Very high probability but short of 100% : De facto theist. "I can not know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that HE is there"

3. Higher than 50% but not very high : Technically agnostic but leaning towards theism. "I am very uncertain, but I'm inclined to believe in God".

4. Exact 50% : Completely impartial agnostic. "God's existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable".

5. Lower than 50% but not very low. Technically agnostic but leaning towards atheism. " I do not know whether God exists but I'm inclined to be sceptical".

6. Very low probability, but not zero: De Facto atheist. "I can not for certain but I think God id very improbable, and I live my life on the ssumption that he is not there".

7. Strong atheist. "I know there is no God, with the same conviction


The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
Bantam Press
405 Pages
Dont remember how much I paid !!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Weights and measures - Joseph Roth

This book, considered by many as a 20th century classic. I wanted to read this for the past 10 years or so. I was unsuccessful until last month, when I accidentally came across this title in a bookshop. I had managed to get hold of his another book The Legend of the Holy Drinker a couple of yeas back.

Anslem Eibenschutz moves to the district of Zlotogrod as an Inspector of Wights and Measures. He had to take this job on the insistence of his wife. As in case of every Army men, civilian life and dress are not making Herr Eibenschutz very happy. He however, goes on with his new job. Typical to an army man, he is truthful to his job and is already a name spoken with fear and contempt by the shopkeepers and merchants. Unlike, his predecessor, he is strict and non corrupt.

While things are fine at the office front, it is not all that good at the family front. Already a trouble marriage, and without a child, Eibenshutz and his wife leads an uninteresting life without love or affection. Soon he realises that his wife is having an affair with his clerk. He manages to get his clerk transferred to another district, but not before her wife is pregnant with the clerks son. Shaken and raged Eibenschutz spends less and less time at home and becomes a frequent at eh border tavern, known for its notorious activities. He became attracted to a Gypsy woman who is the mistress of the landlord Jadlawker. In a sudden turn of event, Eibenschutz gets Jadwalker arrested and put in prison and takes over the running of the tavern by an order.
As he manages to take his new found love for the woman and alcohol cherish, another tragedy hits the districts in the form of Cholera. People after people are falling prey to this and the life in the district is affected by this. He looses his wife and son( of Clerk) to the disease. Though he survived the epidemic, his life also gets to a tragic end.

This book is written in the year of 1937 and he himself drank his way to the grave ( as written in the credits) at a young age of 45. Reading this book under isolation this will not give you a good impression. It looks just like any other 20th century fiction from the first half. As Milan Kundera says in his new book ( the curtain) , no fiction can be understood without having basic knowledge of the author, the period and the geography. From that point of view this book was very interesting to me. Whole book gives us an atmosphere of loss and unhappiness to me and the epidemic adds to already pathetic state of people. The villagers live an uneventful life , the only place of action being the tavern full of escaping people from the Soviet Union, drinking their way to the new freedom, before migrating to far away lands such as Canada , South America.

Here is a short article from Granta by Michael Hoffman on The Rediscovery of Joseph Roth
Wiki details of Joseph Roth

Wights and Measures
Written By : Joseph Roth ( Translated from German by David Le Vay )
Published by : Peter Owen , London
150 Pages
Rs 349.20