Kanyakumari: Oldest Villupattu performer Poongani passes away at 84

The moments spent together and her smilepriceless. A timeless treasure, she is.Just like the ancient art forms of our heritage and world .

Kanyakumari: Poongani Amma, the oldest Villupattu performer in India, passed away Friday at her tiny home in Kottaram village near here. The 84-year-old rustic musician perhaps would have lived a few more years if only the state-the government and the people-had not allowed her to decay in poverty and neglect.

Some neighbours were taking care of her as she lived alone after the death of her husband, also a Villupattu performer, died years ago and she had no means of livelihood except for the '1000 government pension. Local officials recorded the death as caused by old age and health issues.

Award-winning rapper Lady Kash from Singapore had earlier this year drenched Poongani Amma in limelight when she flew down to visit the old woman at her hut and made a song titled Villupattu in her honour. “Together with my team, we gave her little humble home a facelift”, wrote the singer, who is a Tamil. “The moments spent together and her smile…priceless. A timeless treasure, she is. Just like the ancient art forms of our heritage and world”.

But then, when she stopped performing at 70 due to age-related issues, Poongani found she was almost abandoned by all and could survive on just the meager government pension. Neighbours were kind, though, as they knew she was a legend.

Beginning her Villupattu at the age of ten, Poongani Amma soon became a star as she could perform with the robust confidence of a man and developed a unique style of twirling the kattai (the stick that strikes the bow string). Those were the days when she was paid twice as much as a male performer.

Even as they claim to be great supporters and sponsors of art and culture, successive Dravidian governments chose to ignore Poongani, perhaps because she was a villager sans a godfather and she was performing a folk art form that was fading in recent years. It was said she did not get the Kalaimamani award from the government-which would have provided her with handsome monthly pensions-because she did not have other awards and she did not keep record of her performances.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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