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K K Rajan: Eminent Chakyar Koothu exponent
- Padmaja Suresh, Bangalore

April 13, 2007

K K Rajan, Chakyar Koothu's most popular and eminent exponent left for his heavenly abode on April 6, 2007. It was as if Good Friday had to be the chosen day and also the time (12-3pm) the most divine moment for judgement...

This great legendary artiste had over 2000 shows of Koothu, Bhagvatam, lectures, Saptahams to his credit and was 74 when his illness took its toll. Yet he was his customary cheerful and motivating self almost regaling like a Vidhooshak-Chakyar (court jester) even when his breath was arrested. A non-Chakyar by birth, belonging to a Palghat Iyer clan, he took this up as his most devoted pursuit, almost taking up equal time or more of his active years as Management Consultant and cost accountant. Born in Trichur, he shifted base to Mumbai and involved himself in Malayalam and Tamil theatre.

Five decades ago, K K Rajendran (popularly known as Chakyar Rajan) volunteered to perform a Chakyar Koothu performance - mono act theater - at a function organized in a Mumbai suburb for 'Vishu' because the original artiste did not turn up.

It took him many years of hard work to gain the recognition as Chakyar Koothu had been the prerogative of a small community and he belonged to a different social group. When Chakyar Rajan received the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi award in 1994, he felt that at last, he was recognized for his contribution to the field of creative activity in which he was all along considered an outsider.

Rajendran blessed by his holiness Swami Haridas Giri, watching is Sri Murugdas

Rajendran in the company of Swami Chinmayananda

Though Chakyar Rajan had not got any formal training in the traditional art, Painkulam Rama Chakyar, Sengalipuram Anantharama Diskshithar, Anjam Madhavan Namboodiri and Mani Madhavan Chakyar were sources of guidance and strength to him. "As a token of appreciation for me, Rama Chakyar gave me 'mizhavu' (claypot) which is used as the accompaniment to my performances."

Anjam Namboodiri advised him to combine the elements of Bhakti and Vedanta with the stories. It was Swami Haridas who gave him the first opportunity to perform in Chennai, the 'cultural capital of the South.'

Spinning some jokes as part of the story-rendering is one aspect. But, his aim was to make the art as contemporary and relevant to the present day's life as possible. While adhering to the fundamentals strictly, he made innovations in the Koothu. For instance, while others use old Malayalam language, he employed Sankritised Malayalam. Rajan acted in a dozen television serials and a few feature films in Malayalam. He received the Kalaiselvam Award instituted by the Nadigar Sangam of Chennai in 1996. The Shankaracharyas have honored him with titles like Kerala Kala Pracharamani and Satkathapravachanamani.

Rajan traveled abroad widely, but he never felt uncomfortable in a foreign country. "On the contrary, wherever I went, I have received only positive responses. That's why I feel that any art form can only be an integrating force and not otherwise."
He had an unusual experience a couple of years ago after he gave a performance in Delhi during a chill winter. That day, a middle-aged man approached him. He wanted to express something and still, he was hesitant to do so. After a lot of persuasion, that man told the artiste that it was after many years that he had laughed for once.

It is deeply felt that this great scholar and dedicated performer deserved more national level recognition.

Chakyar Rajan is survived by his wife Devika, son Shriram, daughters Kanchana and Bharatanatyam dancer Padmaja Suresh.

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