Thiruvananthapuram: Government Central High School, Attakkulangara, was the only government school in the capital to teach Kathakali in the seventies. In 2016, it still is. But it is hard to imagine that a school student, in the age of 'Pokemon Go', would be interested in this traditional art form.
"I like Kathakali because I like its stories," says Sreejith J., in class VI. Their master Nelliyode Vasudevan has told them many. However, the story that three out of the four students from Kathakali's first batch like is that of Don Quixote. (Recently Nelliyode had played the protagonist when the Spanish classic was adapted into Kathakali, and it was performed in Spain.)
There was just Arjun Gopal in class VI who said that he likes Nalacharitham. "I like stories. I read. Recently, I read Basheer’s Mantrikapoocha. In my previous school, I didn't know where the library was,” he says.
You might wonder why there were only four participants. The batch initially had 20 students. However, many dropped out, according to Asha Gopinath, who coordinates the Kathakali programme at the school.
That this is not easy could have been a reason. The 'navarasams', one of the basics, demand a lot of practice. Yadukrishnan M R in class VI says, "I am not comfortable showing 'hasyam'."
The ones who stayed back are aware of the gigantic stature of their teacher. "I like the classes as he treats us with a lot of love. He never hurts us," says Abhijith J. "We are all amazed that he is over 70 years, and still so energetic," says Mr Sreejith.
A function was held at the school on Wednesday to felicitate the teacher and the students who had completed a year's training. Margi Vijayakumar was the chief guest. He said that the point of such a programme was not to turn everyone into a performer.
At least, everyone will be able to understand Kathakali through such programmes, he said. The children have already become fans. "I watch Kathakali on TV at night," says Mr Sreejith.