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Performing on Ground Zero

Kalamandalam Sivadas remembers performing on what is now Ground Zero. He reminiscences on his trip a few years ago to the twin towers, before 9/11.


IT COMES back again. Another September 11. The once imposing World Trade Center has now been reduced to rubbles.Kalamandalam Sivadas remembers performing on what is now Ground Zero. It gives him the creeps now. For many who had been there before that disaster, the WTC remains an unforgettable memory. Kalamandalam Sivadas is one of those who still carry wonderful memories of his visit to this once important landmark in New York.

View from the top

Sivadas was part of the 15-member troupe of kathakali artistes that toured the United States in September 1996. The WTC was a place they could not miss on this visit. They were allowed to go up the 110-storied building and the view of the city from the top was `simply breathtaking.' "There were security restrictions then too but since we had performed there, before a very appreciative audience, we were granted entry," recollects Sivadas. They had then staged `Kiratham' at the centre-stage of the WTC, which is now known as Ground Zero.

During their three-month tour of the U.S., the troupe staged programmes in Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, California etc. "We also got the opportunity to visit the famous Niagara waterfalls. A few Indians settled in the U.S. also arranged many programmes at various venues, apart from those scheduled. For every performance we distributed the gist of the story in English to the audience, which helped them enjoy the performance better. We also explained on the different costumes used, music and other aspects of kathakali."


"Anyone who has seen or climbed to the top of the WTC could never ever think of destroying this fine monument," feels Sivadas. The play lasted only for an hour and the reaction of the crowd was simply overwhelming. Sivadas still treasures the photographs that he and his friends took as they went up the elevator.

When the WTC came down in 2001 Sivadas was at Cherthala. "I was there for a programme when we heard the terrible news. Though it was something that happened so far away, in an alien land, those cherished memories of being on top of the WTC, filled me with grief," remembers Sivadas, who works as a music teacher at the Kerala Kalamandalam.

Kathakali music

Sivadas inherited music from his father E.V. Kuttan Pillai Bhagavathar, an exponent of vocal music. He studied kathakali music, for six years, at the Unnayi Warrier Smaraka Kalanilayam, Irinjalakuda and went on to complete his two-year diploma and post-graduation from the Kerala Kalamandalam. Since 1988 he has been part of the faculty.

During his tour of England in 1992, Sivadas had the honour of releasing an audio CD, composed by him, by a Southampton-based company called Central Ocean Stream. It incorporates his songs from the plays `Nalacharitham' and `Karnasapatham.' Sivadas is also the recipient of the Venkitakrishna Bhagavathar Award in 1985-86.

SURESH KUMAR

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