It is krr krr workshop time – I’ve been looking forward to this for a few years now. The first set of workshops bring me to Kattaikkuttu Gurukulam in Kanchipuram. The taxi packed: The Ringarotus drawings, clothes, books, the guitar, a trunk with inks and pen, nicotine, 2 big stacks of cut natural evolution paper, few books I’ve illustrated, this year’s first bunch of bananas from the garden, the various gadgets for documentation, umbrella and pillow.
The gurukulam is a residential theatre school established by P.Rajagopal and Hanne de Bruinin in 2002 – it focuses on using the traditional performance form of Kattaikkuttu as the medium of education; 44 children between 6 and 16 years old study & perform here. It is based in Punjarasantankal, a small village near Kanchipuram Town, about 85 kilometres from Chennai.
The Kattaikkuttu children wake up at 6am groom themselves, drink milk and show up for their 7:30am movement or vocal class. 8:30 am breakfast. Morning classes in reading, writing, maths, science, computer & social sciences with a 11am tea-milk break, classes continue. 12:00pm krr krr workshop, 1 pm lunch. 1:30 onwards music class to train in instruments and songs special to the kattaikkuttu form. 3:00pm – 5:00pm, together they learn and rehearse the repertory from their Thaatha Mr P.Rajagopal with a small snack break in between. 6:30 pm homework, play 7:30pm dinner, 9:00pm sleep.
The weekend timetable has a different mood. They wash their clothes, clean up stuff, study, attend custom fit classes, play, sit – do weekend things. They watch 2 movies together. They actively participate in taking care of their school.
Such is the work done to develop the strength to be a performer in this form – a Kattaikkuttu performance is an 8 hour long show done across the night in the open air on a square piece of ground somewhere in the middle of the village. It starts at 10pm and ends at 6am the next day.
From their website:
“Imagine how many songs and words you need to fill an entire night…”.
“A good actor knows at least two ‘big’ roles of any play. They are on stage for 4 or more hours when they play a ‘big’ role. There are more than 20 traditional Kattaikkuttu plays. That means that they know 20 x 4 x 2 = 160 hours of text by heart.”
The mountain comes to Kattaikkuttu – artists and patrons from across the world travel to this school bringing their work, exposure, thoughts and gifts; as the children keep at their arts practice.
Within this kind of set up I am filled with anticipation towards my 60 minutes a day with them. I’ve just completed 7 sessions and 1 performance at the school. The school closed for a holiday weekend and the children went home. A good break to reflect on the goings on.