Athul M, a 21-year-old graduate of Thrissur School of Drama, will receive grants for popular and ritualistic clowning performances in South India.

Athul wearing a clowns makeup and playing a ukulele in a dark backgroundPhoto credit - Unni Salim
news Theatre Tuesday, November 17, 2020 - 20:00

Athul M is two months short of 22, but so far he has acted in more than 50 plays, directed three children's dramas and curated theatre performances, in addition to curating an art café in Kollam, his homeland. Unsurprisingly, he has now won the Inlaks Theatre Award 2021 for his practice in 'Clown in South Indian Popular and Ritualistic Performances'. “That means they will provide me grant to practice clowning from January to December 2021,” Athul says.

It is a curious choice for a performing art, clowning. Athul says that he believes everyone has a clown within. “It is a universal character, comes in all cultures and contexts,” he says.

Athul has chosen Malayalam as his medium, and will be taking forms of popular and ritualistic performances in South India. “I will practice in four forms. One is the Tamil art form of Therukuthu for which I will play the clown character Kattiyakaran. Another is the folk art form Padayani where I will take clown characters in the social context – playing the zamindar and the slave in a satire drama. The third is the classical form of Chakyarkoothu where I play the Vidooshakan. And the fourth is the popular entertainment form of circus. Kerala has a rich history of circus – Keeleri Kunjikannan who founded the Great Indian Circus being regarded as the father of Indian Circus,” Athul says.

From these four forms that he practices, he will create a new performance. He will also document his training techniques for future students to make use of.

Athul had moved into theatre circles early in his life, joining the Abhinaya Theatre Group when he was a lad of 16. He did his graduation at the School of Drama in Thrissur. He has trained children in theatre arts, and created performances with the kids of Chilla India, a home for children of sex workers. Athul is also the curator of the 8 Point Art Café in Kollam.

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