Conveying message of Jesus Christ through `Kathakali`

Kochi: Kathakali, the classical dance form of Kerala, which flourished around the temples for decades,is all set to debut in the Catholic Church premises.

Kathakali,considered one of the oldest theatre forms of the world, traditionally was based on themes derived from Hindu epics Ramayana, Mahabaratha and other myths and legends of Hinduism.

For the first time in the history of this celebrated dance drama, the message and essence of Holy Eucharist (Qurbana) will be recreated through the classic and well-defined `mudras` and Jesus Christ will step into elaborate costumes.

The 90-minute performance titled `Divyakarunyacharitam` (Story of Holy Eucharist) is based on the poem `Ithu Ninakkai` (This is given up for you) written by famous Christian lyricist Father Joy Chencheril, MCBS, and recited by well known Malayali poet Murugan Kattakada.

Father Joy told PTI the theme is based on `Last Supper of Christ`. "Irrespective of religion,the message of eucharastic love shown by Christ by washing the feet of disciples and by breaking his body as life to the world would be portrayed during the performance".

The concept, consultation and production is by Father Joy. Radha Madhavan has written the Aattakkatha.

Celebrated exponent Kalamandalam Sajan will lead a dancers` team to give expressions of the mystery of Holy Eucharist. E Kottackal Madhu will do the recital.The poem,again first of a kind about Eucharist, has been well received by Catholics.

There are eight characters, including Jesus Christ, in this performance. Performers are all traditional Kathakali artistes most of them are from Kalamandalam.

The first performance will be at Pastoral Orientation Centre here on July 21, to be inaugurated by Major Archbishop of Syro Malabar church Mar George Alencherry and attended by priests, religious and cultural leaders and Kathakali lovers.Author and former Chief Secretary Dr D Babu Paul will give the introductory speech.

Shakespeare`s King Lear has been performed by Kathakali artistes earlier.

Performances would also be held in Kannur, Chenganassery, Pala and various other parts of Kerala before being staged at Delhi in January 2012, Father Joy said.

The only female character will be the wife of King Pontius Pilate during whose reign the crucification of Jesus Christ took place.

Fr. Joy said it would be a 'pure' traditional Kathakali performance with regard to costume and presentation except that Malayalam would replace Sanskrit shlokas. Christ in the performance would don the costume of a Rishi (sage), he said.

"Holy Eucharist is the sum and substance of Christian faith. Holy Qurbana is for Christians is a classic sacrament. The uniqueness of the performance is that another classic dance Kathakali is now giving life to it on stage. We hope Kathakali too will find a place in Church premises, now dominated by
cinematic dances, and mimics during festivals," he said.

The show seeks to communicate the self-giving message of Jesus and the sacrament through subtle mudras, cutting across religious boundaries."Holy Eucharist epitomizes sharing of love and it is an invitation to share among human beings. Kathakali, because of its poise and rhythm can well express
this spirit of sharing the self-emptying love," he said.

Kalamandalam Sajan said they are thrilled to be part of the rare production. Though we had been part of many performances in the past at acclaimed stages, this will be different as a unique composition.It was not easy to translate Christian mythology into attires so far predominantly used for telling Hindu mythology'.

Radha Madhavan said it was not easy to convert a poem into Kathakali performance as this dance form needs very specially a story. After Fr. Joy explained the poem to her, she meditated it for over three days before applying herself to develop it into a story with five scenes, she said.

A member of Missionary Congregation of Blessed Sacrament, Fr Joy has penned a number of best selling Christian devotional songs and won many awards (like F.B.A. for best and popular Christian devotional song) for his contributions to the devotional songs genre.


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