Witness India's oldest maritime theatre

Jan 08, 2014, 07:47 IST | The Guide Team

On its 22nd anniversary, Keli, known for hosting their annual festivals in the city, will showcase Chavittu Natakam ” a maritime theatre festival with influences from Portuguese Christian opera to Kerala's martial arts. This will be the first time that this art form will be seen in Mumbai

Since ancient times, India has been a melting pot for different civilisations, cultures and races. In light of this unique assimilation, Chavittu Natakam, India’s most ancient maritime theatre traditions, was created drawing from the operatic traditions carried by the Portuguese Christian missionaries who landed on Kerala’s shores post the 15th century, and mixed with local martial arts and dramatic themes of the home state.

Performers from an earlier show of Chavitti Natakam

This form of theatre narrates stories from Christian legend, with Western costumes, and elements from European opera as well as abhinaya — the facial expressions unique to Indian performances. There are even influences of Kathakali and Kerala’s martial arts. Chavittu Natakam when literally translated, means rhythmic steps which accompany the recitation of the lines of the libretto, producing resonant sounds to accentuate dramatic situations.

Mumbaiites will be treated to three days of foot-stomping, live dance dramas, fighting and fencing as part of this maritime dance form. According to Ramachandran K, festival director, these plays were probably written originally in Chentamil (original Tamil) since the texts presently in circulation show a mix of Tamil and Malayalam. This dance form maintains immense respect and importance to the performance manual, (Chuvati) which codifies the entire routine — from the rituals performed at the beginning of rehearsals to the actual performance.

The most celebrated play is undoubtedly Karalman Natakam. The drama focusses on the heroism of the Emperor Charlemagne the great, his men and nephew legendary Roland. This story was popular in southern Europe up to the middle of the 20th century.

Day 1: Chavittu Natakam -- Karalman Charitham (Charlemagne) Part 1
On: Thursday, January 9, 6.45 pm onwards.
At:T YB Chavan Centre, opposite Mantralaya.

Day 2: Karalman Charitham (Charlemagne) Part 2
On: Friday, January 10, 7.30pm onwards.
At: YB Chavan Centre, opposite Mantralaya.

Day 3:
Karalman Charitham (Charlemagne) Part 3 (Subtext: Story of Anjelikka)
On: January 11, 7pm and 9pm.
At: Prithvi Theatre, Juhu, Vile Parle.

YB Chavan centre, Rhythm House, Prithvi Theatre, Maharashtra Watch Company, Dadar and Giri Stores, Matunga.

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