Navarasam

(Translation on request for GA.)
I have always enviously looked at my kid’s art/music classes here in the US where the teachers introduce various artists and methods used by them. The kids are given an opportunity to try them out, be it imitating Picasso or learning the steps of German dance. That gives them a good understanding of culture all over the world and encourage them to further pursue art if they are inclined that way.

The moment you see a Kathakali[1] face mask, you identify that with Kerala. Despite that I don’t remember it being a part of mainstream entertainment. Doordarshan used to have Kathakali segments on TV, which tbh I found boring as a child. I don’t know if everyone who went to school in Kerala during the 80s/90s would agree with me, but I feel if we had been given a class on art appreciation in school, it would have helped us more in supporting the traditional art forms of Kerala.

This song is an ode to Kathakali where lyricist Dhanya Suresh[2] mentions about the decline of appreciation for the art. The video, my Lord!, is so haunting. I believe it should come with a trigger warning for parents. There was a moment when I gasped out aloud. It takes you through the life of a Kathakali family where the kid is bullied by other kids in his school, which I believe is depicting how the art form is stifled by external factors. Excellent vocals by Vipin Lal and great music as always by Thaikkudam Bridge!

To listen to the song, click play:

Apaara…bhaavathisaara theere,
[On the shore of the vast ocean of expressions,]
dhyana nimeelithaardra punyam,
[standing immersed in pure meditation]
deeptham vishistam vikalpam!
[(is this) radiant fine illusion(ary art form)!]

Deena thaalam mevum raagam,
kettu maanjo chhayaaroopam?
[The miserable tempo of this persistent music,
did the real personality (of the dancer) disappear hearing this?]
Kolam maarum naatyasheelin,
chaaram aenthi karivesham aadi
[This dance art form with a declining image,
donning its ashes he performs the karivesham* act]

Apaara…bhaavathisaara theere,
[On the shore of the vast ocean of expressions,]
dhyana nimeelithaardra punyam,
[standing immersed in pure meditation]
deeptham vishistam vikalpam!
[(is this) radiant fine illusion(ary art form)!]

Dheemthakida dheethee thai dheem thakitta thithi
thai, adantha** kotti, kuthikaalu thatti, purappadaayi chutti
[With adantha beats on the drum, taking a step forward, the character is ready to go]
Dheemthakida dheethee thai dheem thakitta thithi
thai, thiramara*** neekki, chundappoo neeril mizhi thiri vetti
[The curtain lowers and the eyes colored with chundapoo++ sap swiftly move]
Dheemthakida dheethee thai dheem thakitta thithi
thai, navarasa+++ janyam slokam kidayilla aattakalaasham
[The nine expressions are generated on the face while the verses and dance reaches a matchless final crescendo]
Dheemthakida dheethee thai dheem thakitta thithi
thai, adikada chutti pakarnnadaan keram kidathaka thithi
[Let the whole body whirl in the dance]

Deena thaalam mevum raagam,
kettu maanjo chhayaaroopam?
[The miserable tempo of this persistent music,
did the real personality (of the dancer) disappear hearing this?]
Kolam maarum naatyasheelin,
chaaram aenthi karivesham aadi…
[This dance art form with a declining image,
donning its ashes he performs the karivesham act]

[1]https://polkajunction.com/kathakali-classical-dance-kerala/
[2]https://www.deccanchronicle.com/entertainment/music/230117/kathakali-rocks.html
*Karivesham – This is a dark character in Kathakali and just like the name ‘kari'(black) signifies, the character wears all black and represents someone who is bad.
**Adantha is a type of chenda melam or percussion music used for Kathakali and other temple festivals.
***Thiramara or Thirasheela means curtain which is held infront of the character at the beginning of Kathakali. The song and percussion start first while the character stays behind the curtain. The character then slowly lowers the curtain at the top and shows off various fast eye movements.
++Chundapoo – It is a plant seed which is used to color the white of the eyes red. Here is a pretty good account on how this is applied during Kathakali makeup, if you are interested.
+++Navarasam means the nine expressions of Indian classical dance. (Wiki Link)
+Image copyright to the original uploader.

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