Miniatures of Kathakali Characters

May 01, 2015 | Vol. 7, Issue 3
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Mr.Suresh aka Thankaraj from Karikkakom, Thiruvananthapuram(Kerala, India) is a talented artist in making miniatures of Kathakali characters, the classical art of Kerala that attracted worldwide attention, for the last 25 years.  

Among the performing art forms in Kerala, the one that is most popular worldwide is Kathakali. It is a classical theatre which was developed two centuries back taking inspiration from various classical and folk forms of Kerala. One of the reasons for its popularity is its vibrant characters and the magnificent colourful costumes, facial makeup and headgears. This may be the reason that led Mr. Suresh K at Karikkakam, near Thiruvananthapuram to start creating miniature Kathakali characters.

Suresh aged 55 hails from a traditional carpenter family and resides with his family in their small home at Karikkakam, near Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala, India). According to Suresh, he started creating miniatures of Kathakali characters about 25 years back, along with Mr. Vikraman, whom he considers as his Guru in this field.  He had a chance to watch and closely interact with Kathakali performances in his childhood as there was a Kathakali troupe under Bhaskara Sastrikal, the father of Vikraman. Both Vikraman and Suresh were   talented and they started sculpting miniature forms. Initially, their earnings were meagre, so both of them had to leave for the Middle East seeking employment and financial stability.  Suresh came back in the year 2001 and since then he has mastered the art of creating Kathakali forms. He has set up a small workshop adjacent to his home with necessary modern tools like hacksaw, rooter, wood cutting machine and a lathe machine.

The craft

The white wood locally called Kumizhu or Kumbil, is the raw material used.  The structure of the human body is carved out in wood and hands are fixed onto it separately in accordance with the posture of the character. The different types of ornaments, weapons and the head gear are also carved of the same wood. The ornaments and head gear are then painted accordingly. The facial painting differs from one character to another. Special costumes are then stitched. All these work is done by Suresh. Once the dress and ornaments are ready, the final crafting is done to create the original Kathakali character. His wife Prabha and Sreeja, the girl who stays nearby assists him. All the details of Kathakali characters in their originality are portrayed on the miniatures too.

Depending upon the nature of the characters, the different types of costuming in Kathakali are generally classified as Pacha, Kathi, Thadi (all male characters) and Minukku (lady characters). Other specialized characters are Hanuman, Kattalan etc. Suresh can create any of these forms in any size. His creations are available at select handicraft shops in Kerala and outside Kerala. For this he generally creates the characters of Krishna, Arjuna (Pacha), Minukku etc. in 18 and 30inch size. The showroom price for an 18 inch miniature   is approximately Rs.4000/- and for 30inch size it is Rs.16,000/-. On demand he will also create life size figures. The miniatures are available for sale at select showrooms of 'Kairali Emporium' and at SMSM Institute Show room, near Secretariat, Thiruvananthapuram.

(Workshop/Residence is situated near Kavinkulangara temple at Karikkakam)
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hello I sow your ad for the kathakali characters can you send me a your phone number I will call you iam kalamandalam vijayakumar

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