Kathaprasangam or the art of storytelling performance is popular art form which blends the tradition of music and speech together. A performing art of Kerala, Kathaprasangam is presented by Kaathikan (Kathaprasangam artiste) who will be a talented person as he/she has to be a singer, actor and an orator at a time.
Also known as Harikatha, Harikathakalakshepam, Kathakalashepam and Sathakatha Kalashepam, similar art forms can be seen in many folk and cultural traditions in different languages in different parts of India. According to historians, Mahabharata and Ramayana were initially performed orally in the form of Harikatha.Kathaprasangam in Kerala has been influenced by art forms like Chakyarkoothu and Padakam.
From a single individual performing on a stage as in Harikatha tradition with a Chaplankatta (an idophonic instrument), Kathaprasangam progressed and it became necessary that a Kaathikan should be versatile and multi-faceted. The artiste, besides acting, should possess a good voice and a unique style of presenting the story. Today, along with the Kathaprasangam artiste, instrumentalists, musicians occupy the stage. Instruments like Harmonium, Tabla, Violin, Clarnet and Guitar are used.
History of Kathaprasangam:
Among the leading Kathaprasangam artistes in Kerala the name of Sathya Devan stands out. His presentation of ‘Markandeyacharitam’ was influenced by Harikatha in Tamil. Staged for the first time in 1920, the story contained a lot of slokas penned by Kumaran Asan.
In the beginning the themes were devotional in nature. Later, themes were drawn from the works of great poets and writers of Malayalam like Kumaran Asan, Vallathol, Ulloor etc. Joseph Kaimaparamban was at the forefront in bringing about such a change in Kathaprasangam. The works of Changampuzha and others soon found place in the hearts of art lovers. Gradually, over the years, social and political themes were introduced. Besides, world classics were presented.
Kathaprasangam again has got a new lease of life when V. Sambasivan introduced new short stories and world famous novels through his performance. The successful presentation of has created a new tradition in the presentation of this art form. Kedamangalam Sadanandan, another popular kaathikan came forward with social and political theme and was the period of transformation marked the heyday of Kathaprasangam.
Many artistes have contributed much to the growth of Kathaprasangom like K. K. Vadyar, Sekharan Vadyar, Swami Brahmavruthan, M. P. Manmadhan, Keshava Panicker, Joseph Kaimapramban, V. Sambasivan, Kedamangalam Sadanandan, Cherthala Bhavani Amma, Ammini Brahmani Amma, Thiruvalla Ponnamma etc.
Along with other art forms Kathaprasangam has also contributed to the social transformation that took place in Kerala. Kathaprasangam was second to drama in terms of popularity. With new art forms making their advent, Kathaprasangam and its popularity dimmed. Moreover, the tastes of the people had changed. Even then some efforts are being made to revive Kathaprasangam’s past glory.