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Kunhikuttan was born in the 1930s, in the southern Indian state of Kerala, then under British domination. His mother was from a lower caste, his father unknown. At the age of ten, he began the long and difficult process of learning Kathakali, the most noble art in Kerala, a combination of dance, mime and theater. Kunhikuttan turned out to be most talented disciple of a demanding master. At age 18, he married Savithri. Despite the birth of a daughter, the forced marriage turns out unhappily, and Kunhikuttan now consoles himself in Kathakali, through which he transcends his unhappiness and expresses all the powerful emotions he feels. But his life changes forever the day he meets Subhadra during a Kathakali performance. He is shattered by their relationship, whereas Subhadra, a young upper class woman, seems lost in her tiny world and cannot distinguish reality from fiction: she falls in love not with Kunhikuttan, but with Arjuna, the heroic figure he impersonates during Kathakali performances.
Kathakali is a kind of refined dance particular to the Kerala region on India's southwest coast, which is where I come from. Kathakali combines mime, dance and theater as well as the arts of costume and make-up. In Kathakali, a story is told wordlessly. It is a visual art, like the movies. The movements of eyes, the gestures of hands and feet tell you what cannot be expressed with words.
Shaji Karun – Director, excerpt from the press folder