Crossing Cultural barriers

It was a unique experience for young artistes of ‘Rangaprabhath’ when artistes of the Japan-based Kamigata-mai helped them stage a Japanese story.
It was a unique spectacle for the rustic audience of Venjaramood in Thiruvananthapuram, when a group of nine artists from Japan performed their traditional art form. For the young artistes of ‘Ranghaprabhath’, a children’s theatre that has been functioning in the village for the last 34 years, the interaction with the new teachers from across the seas was an experience they would cherish for a very long time.
Doyen of theatre
The occasion was the 16th death anniversary of G. Shankara Pillai, he doyen of Malayalam theatre and the inspiration behind the concept of Rangaprabhath. Renowned Malayalam film directors Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Shyamaprasad reminded the audience about the contributions of the late G. Shankara Pillai in materialising the dream of a children’s theatre in he country.
The four-day-long workshop began with the artists of Kamigatamaitomonokai, trying to cross language and cultural barriers to reach out
to the young artistes of Rangaprabhat. The Japan-based organisation is trying to popularise the traditional dance form, Kamigata-mai. The Japanese artistes had to train the 46 young children to stage a Japanese story.or young artistes of ‘Rangaprabhath’ when artistes of the Japan-based Kamigata-mai helped them stage a Japanese story.
“We thought communication would become a big problem between the Japanese artistes and our children,” says K. Kochunarayana Pillai, founder president of the theatre.
Language was a problem and soon they switched to non-verbal communication that relied on the eyes, mudras and body language. Keiin Yoshimura, he team-leader and he choreographer says that it was smooth sailing from hen on. “The children were very responsive and just one look into heir eyes was sufficient for me to read their minds.”
On the third day, the 54-year-old artiste from Alasaka, Keiin Yoshimura, mesmerized the audience with her brilliant performance of Kamigata-Mai. Clad in a Kimono and holding a beautiful umbrella she danced to the soft music of Jutha*, a traditional musical instrument of Japan.
Universal themes
Two Japanese stories were performed and the one in which she depicted the story of a nun reminiscing of her past love, transcended all barriers and mesmerised the audience. On the last day, towards the evening, as the workshop came to an end, the children were ready to perform the Japanese story on stage. After the traditional ‘Keli kottu,’ which announced the beginning of the performance, the blowing of a conch by a Buddhist monk from Japan preceded the play. The lack of dialogue was effectively compensated by some melodious songs in Malayalam, which accompanied and interpreted the actions on stage.
There were more than 40 students performing in different groups. One group represented sunshine and another group represented night.
The movements were slow, which were in sharp contrast with the brisk movements of ‘foxes’ and the rhythmic dance of ‘rain’ that weaved in and out of the stage.
At one point, the presence of sunshine and rain, foxes and weeping brides on stage revealed the plot in one sweep – the marriage of the fox. “I was pleasantly surprised when I learnt that the Japanese have the same story about the marriage of the fox when there is sunshine and rain at the same time,” says Kochunarayana Pillai.
But Keiin Yoshimura is not that surprised. “Beyond all differences, if you go deep, really deep you can see strains of cultural and aesthetic values that both the countries share. Real art explores that.
The performance concluded with a beautiful song in Japanese rendered by the young artistes of Rangaprabhath.
“Had it not been for the sponsorship of the Japan foundation, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Tourism Department, the dream of bringing the Japanese artists to this remote village would not have materialised,” says Ravi Gopalan Nair who is the coordinator of the Japanese team’s itinerary in the country.

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About Manu Remakant

Manu has written 298 stories in Rum, Road & Ravings. You can read all posts by here.

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