Kerala Festival 2002
by Elizabeth Menon

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‘Kerala Festival 2002’ at the Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan in London was the celebration of a unique culture in a foreign land. The two weeks at the Bhavan was in deed a true reflection of Kerala’s best in Music, dance, cuisine, natural beauty and above all, its famous hospitality. The festival brought Kerala to the rest of the world and succeeded in bringing nostalgia to the Malayalees in the UK. Malayalees share this unique quality of joy and pride, in their ‘God’s own Country’, more so when they are away from this beautiful land. The festival was a great opportunity to share this with the rest of the world.

During the two weeks of celebrations, various artists from Kerala and the talents in UK brought nostalgic memories to the audience. National Award winner, Murali was noticed more by his absence. It was a bitter disappointment to those who were eager to meet the great artist and witness his inimitable acting in ‘Lankalakshmi’ and ‘Neythukaran’. However, another unique talent came to the rescue! Rajeev Nath, who won the National Award for the best director for his film ‘Janani’, entertained the audience by his presence and ‘Janani’; the audience remembered his other films, ‘Kaveri, Aham , Theerangal, Kadal theerathu, Thanal etc.

Motherhood and its passionate nature in various forms take the centre stage in both his latest films, ‘Janani’ and ‘Mamma is waiting’. Rajeev Nath’s direction has brought out the exquisite depth and meaning of motherhood in these films, in its various forms: a mother who abandons her baby, another who shows the tragic effects of loosing a baby and mothers of a different kind coming to terms with their hidden feelings. Rajeev Nath’s directorial skill was quite apparent and one could see why he received many awards for this film. Audience were disappointed, as his latest film ‘Mamma is waiting’ was cancelled due to technical problems.

Bharat Mammootty made a guest appearance that filled the air with nostalgic memories of a ‘Vadakkan Veera Gatha’ and ‘chandana lepa sugandham’! Evenings proved Malayalee dominance in various art forms such as Mohiniyattom, Bharatha natyam, dance drama, play, Sopana sangeetham and poetry. Kavalam Sreekumar’s excellent performance gave the audience a rare chance to hear Sopana sangeetham; one should remember here that his father, Kavalam Narayana Panicker formed the association for ‘Sopanam’. Thara kalyan delighted the audience by her performance and choreography. The excellent Krishna Sthuthy dance by Devi Ajit was however eclipsed by the music, ‘Oru neramenkilum kaanathe’, in the celestial Gandharva voice through the airwaves! Ravi Vallathol, Bindu Sree, Rajaram are few of the artists who entertained the audience during the two weeks of festivities.

Mr Haridas, chairman of the Kerala Group of restaurants in the UK organized the festival; his son’s brilliant Bharatha Natyam performance was an added bonus! Complimentary Kerala delicacies, such as, dosa, idli, vada, sambar and chutney were supplied by the restaurants and the admission for the festival was free.

It was the first time that Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan witnessed a ‘Kerala Festival’. People of different nationalities attended the festival and one could see the admiration and amazement in their faces, having experienced an exquisite culture. The festival was a clear demonstration of the ‘Malayalee pride’ in their ‘God’s own country’, as Mammootty mentioned in his speech.

© E Menon



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