Sunday, May 11, 2008

[NewIndPress] Nrithasilpam on ragging

Friday May 9 2008 08:01 IST
Athira M

She made Tom and Jerry squabble in Mohiniyattom attire. Then she presented tales of social injustice and distress, holding fast to the tradition of Mohiniyattom.

Kalamandalam Hemalatha, a danseuse known for her attempts to weave varied - sometimes impossible - themes into Mohiniyattom, is back with a new work. This time it’s about ragging.

"When it’s time to go for higher studies, most school students are apprehensive about ragging. Equally tense are their parents. Ragging is something which has to be curbed. We have examples where students commit suicide when they are unable to bear the taunts and shame. My work narrates such a tale. It calls for creating awareness in society about the abuse of ragging," said Hemalatha, 35, who passed out of Kalamandalam in 1991.

Her work tells about a village girl. A palmist tells her that tragedies are in store for her, her honour and even life are at stake.

"But she brushes it aside, quite typical of youngsters. However, once she goes to the city for higher studies everything scares her- the new place, her classmates and the new atmosphere. She is ragged and eventually it leads to her death, shattering the dreams and hopes of her parents," said Hemalatha.

This 45-minute to one-hour work will be staged at Kerala Sahitya Akademi Hall, Thrissur, on May 19, as part of the 15th anniversary celebrations of Hemalatha’s dance school, Devi Kalamandalam.

The work has been choreographed and directed by Hemalatha and her husband P.B.Jayan.

Music composition is by Dr Unnikrishnan and Oorakam Sreekumar is the singer. Thrissur Ugine is on the organ and harmonium and Raman plays the mizhavu.

The work definitely has Malayalam lyrics which magnifies the extent of ragging. Like, the victim is being taunted by the words "Penno, purushano, napumsakamo?" (Are you female, male or eunuch?), Hemalatha said. "It is through the `mizhavu’ that the horror of ragging is brought out," she added.

It was in 2006 that Hemalatha told Tom and Jerry tales through Mohiniyattom to popularise the art form among children. Later she ventured out to narrate serious themes-like drinking water shortage through the story of Mailamma.

Bharatavarthamanam, another work, touched upon the endosulfan tragedy, farmer suicides and Noida massacre. She has also portrayed the life of widows through the story of Kurooramma.

"We hardly react when there is any injustice. Dance is our medium of reacting," said Jayan, Hemalatha’s husband. Through Mohiniyattom, she also paid tribute to EMS Namboothirippad and to the late Mother Teresa.

The couple is now holding an year-long free Mohiniyattom camp for 50 children at their dance school.

"It also covers make-up so that these children can do it on their own once they start seriously pursuing the dance form," said Jayan.

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