K. Raman Kutty's contributions to conserving Kerala's performing art forms are immense.
He runs the State's only unit making 'Koppu' at Kothavil here, the accessories and headgear for the traditional performing art forms such as Kathakali, Chakyarkoothu, Koodiyattam, Nangiarkoothu, Krishnanattam, Ottan Thullal, and Theyyam.
Raman Kutty started learning the basics of carpentry under the tutelage of his father Krishnan Asari at the age of five.
Named after Krishnan Asari, the unit supplies Kathakali headgears to artistes and research centres and cultural institutions worldwide, which have affinity to Kerala's traditional art forms. Raman Kutty's sons Unnikrishnan and Govindankutty help their father run the unit.
"It was about six decades ago my father started making Kathakali headgears and that too at the behest of eminent artiste Kalamandalam Krishnankutty Poduval. At that time, there were many carpenters involved in the profession. Now, my sons are helping me continue with the tradition braving many odds. More than a job, it is our mission," said Raman Kutty, 68.
"It will take about 30 days to make a headgear by chiselling wood of the rare Kumizh tree. We also manufacture wooden ornaments for the artistes. Though a headgear is priced at Rs. 30,000, the profit is less because of the scarcity of raw material and the efforts involved," he said.
"The Koppu comprises all decorations used by a performer. There are variations depending on the nature of art form and the individual characters. The wood is light and therefore easy on the performer. It is durable and has medicinal qualities," says Raman Kutty. He even taught the subject at the Kerala Kalamandalam. He, later, set up the Koppu Kendram at his home after the institution dropped the course after two years.
About the income from the profession, he says, "Enough? Not really. But we manage. Art forums and festivals are increasing, and that, in a way, benefits us too".
"Foreign artistes who come to Kerala to learn our art forms are often guided here. Some of them get one or more sets of Koppu made to take back to their countries," Raman Kutty says.
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