Interview Of The Week: Je Suis Julien Touati
On Feb 05, 2015
|Julien Touati, a French Kathakali artist performed at the Vylopilly some days back. Yentha caught up with the artist as he shared insights about everything that we thought we knew but we didn't. Let's meet him.
1. What attracted you to Kathakali?
It’s the combination of dance, music and drama in the same art which attracted me. In France, things are distinct and separate. I was doing drama and I wanted to find something to work on especially with my body. When I started Kathakali, I was fascinated by the extreme rigour and discipline needed to learn it. It was very tough but the fact of being a part of a group of young students gave me the strength to do my best, throughout the long course.
2. How did you came to know about this art form?
I heard about it during a workshop in Paris from the famous Italian director, Pippo Delbono. He used to do contemporary art forms, but in his training for his artists, he uses different techniques of traditional arts like Kathakali, Kabuki and others.
3. Where did you learn Kathakali in Kerala? And your teachers?
I learned at the Kottakkal PSV Natyasangham. My ashan is Kottakkal Chandrashekaran, but all members of the troupe are my teachers, especially Kottakkal A Unnikrishnan who was my guru during my first year in Kottakkal.
The way my gurus taught me was extremely good. They coached me until I was able to do exercises or steps with lots of patience and dedication to the art. Due to that I improved a lot. Being accepted in Kottakkal PSV Natyasangham is still the most beautiful gift I ever had in my life.
4.How many years have you been associated with Kathakali?
I joined PSV Natyasangham School in 2006 and had regular classes until 2010. Since 2010, I try to go there every year, but only for a short stay and to have some practice.
5. Was language a barrier at any stage of your learning?
Yes it was. I tried to learn Malayalam and I can now slowly read it and write it. It was important for learning Kathakali padhams, but it’s very difficult. And the Malayalam we talk in
everyday life is not the same in literature, So, it was a barrier, and that’s the reason why it’s difficult for me to remember lines in Kathakali.
6. I’ve seen your performance. You have improvised traditional Kathakali by adding a few elements.
The performance you saw was directed by Michel Lestrehan from the Prana Co. He selected the story and asked me to perform as Bhima in this way. We wrote the text together and I followed his direction for the choreography.
7. Which are your personal favourites?
I like Kuchela Vritham very much. It’s talking about an old friendship between Krishna and Kuchela, and the music is very beautiful.
Of course Duryodhana Vadham is also a very good story with the famous scene where Bhima becomes Raudra Bhima, kill Dushassana and drink his blood. I saw this story many times performed by PSV Natyasangham, and I always cry when Panchali (often performed by Kottakkal Rajumohan) is assaulted and calls Krishna. I did my Arangettam in a scene from this story as Krishna.
8. Have you ever performed Kathakali in front of a French audience?
I tried, and I will invite PSV Natyasangham for a tour to France. This year, in March / April, Michel Lestrehan will perform in France and Switzerland. He invited nine artists from different troupes to perform two stories: Daksha Yaga and Thorana Yudha. I will take part in this tour and perform secondary characters. Michel Lestrehan is a much more experienced artist in Kathakali than me. He has invited Kathakali artists many times to France. But I’m working on it and all my work today is to create projects with Kathakali artists in France and in India and to make this art more famous.
9. How was their response towards Kathakali?
I saw Kathakali programs in France, about four times in the last 10 years, and the audience were very receptive and I liked it very much.
10. What all are your interests other than Kathakali?
I’m an artist, I work as an actor in art films and dramas, I work as a dancer doing contemporary dance performances, and as a choreographer since I have created my own company in 2008, AVS Road Co. I also directed a documentary film about Kathakali, “The table with the dogs – Kathakali” which has been screened in many countries and had won many awards.
11. What are your future programs?
I’m now in Kerala to work on a big project called the Eleven Project, it’s talking about the human situation today through the nine emotions, Navarasa. Also, I will be in Thrissur school of Drama with four of my friends (musician, writer, digital artist and video maker) to conduct a workshop for students and also perform there. The project is to offer eleven workshops on our subject to different groups of actors from France and India.
All the best for your projects and thank you for spending time with Yentha.com.