Thrissur: Mohiniyattam, a classical dance form of Kerala, is often referred to as the "dance of the enchantress" and meant to be performed solo by women. A 48-year-old lecturer has now become the first Muslim man to get a doctorate in the dance form.
Lecturer K.M. Abu was a PhD student at the Kalamandalam University. He submitted his thesis in 2013 and was awarded his doctorate degree last week.
The thesis traces the life and times of the great Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma, often called the "Mother of Mohiniyattam", as she has been credited for giving a new lease of life to the art form.
Abu, who will soon be promoted as an associate professor at the Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit, told IANS that though he is the first Muslim man to get a doctorate for Mohiniyattam, there were many other males who teach and even perform the dance form.
"To teach Mohiniyattam, one has to learn it and that's all I did. Since I am more interested in teaching, I concentrate on that and am not very keen to turn a performer," said Abu, who recently also cleared the national eligibility test in performing arts (dance).
He said that he was always fascinated by the costumes of all the dance forms right from his school days.
"It began like that and slowly I got to know a neighbour of mine -- a lady teacher in dance who taught me. Then I joined a course at the Radha Lakshmi Vilasom College in Tripunithura near Kochi and from then on, I had no reason to look back," said Abu.
On how Mohiniyattam has developed over the years, he said: "Even though the basics have remain the same and is centred around our epics, the compositions, especially the themes and plots have been experimented with," Abu said.
Even though Abu has now become a source of inspiration to many by virtue of being a dance teacher, he said his daughter, an engineering student, is just an average dancer.
"While my wife is just an ordinary lady and our daughter an average dancer, I have lots of hope in my niece who is currently studying the art form at the Kalamandalam University," he said.
Abu said if not for the guidance of N. Ajayakumar, a professor in Malayalam at the Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit, his doctorate would not have become a reality.