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A Keralite Treading New Furrows in London Culture

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A still from Kunjan Nambiar

Sasi S Kulamada is an alternative voice amidst various cultural organisations in London. Sasi, hailing from south Indian state of Kerala, and his collective `Keli’ leave a mark with their dedication and professionalism….writes Rajitha Saleem

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A still from Keli's Kunjan Nambiar
A still from Kunjan Nambiar

Amongst the multitudinous cultural and regional organisations that throng London’s East Ham, a voice that trod the alternative path—that is what Sasi S Kulamada and his collective, `Keli’ represents.

“I would rather lead an unconventional group of people and give opportunities to those who are not featured anywhere else, than contribute to the already crowded established organisations,” said Sasi who has been successfully organising the `Keralapiravi’ (Kerala Day) from 2008 onwards under the aegis of Keli.

Sasi S Kulamada
Sasi S Kulamada

“What makes Keli different is that the donations that we collect on the occasion of Nov 1, is handed out for humanitarian causes every year,” added the talented actor/director. For the first three years, the proceeds from the Keralapiravi day was contributed to the charitable needs of the popular TV programme in Kerala, `Kannadi.’ But for the last few years, friends of Keli have been able to identify the needy in Kerala and help them with the money collected. It included the family of a poor but talented poet/farmer, five cancer patients and the like.

Another significant initiative from Keli is the annual award the `Keli Puraskaram-Sivanandhan Kanwasramathil Award,’ which honours contributions to the field of art, literature and theatre. It is instituted in honour of the veteran theatre artiste Sivanandhan Kanwasramathil and sponsored by Bodhi, another organisation working towards encouraging arts.

Keli's Onam festival
Keli’s Onam festival

Many prominent Malayalee artists in UK today such as dancer Meera Mani, theatre artist Manoj Siva have been the recipient of this prestigious award.

Even while encouraging contemporary Malayalam theatre, Sasi’s passion remains historic drama. An ardent lover of history of Kerala, he has tried to bring many dramas on historical personalities of Kerala. Prominent among them are the one act plays `Parayi petta panthirukulam’, and `Kunjan Nambiar’, all of which he has acted and directed himself. “One thing about presenting historical drama is to keep the spirit of these astonishing characters alive, while at the same time, it is a great opportunity to let the present generation know the rich heritage of our state,” added Sasi.

Keli's Onam festival
Keli’s Onam festival

It is not only in theatre that Sasi has travelled the offbeat path, but also in presenting the real games of Kerala during the harvest festival Onam, while the other organisations went the populist way. He brought the traditional games of Ponnonapoothalam, Thumbithullal and Manikyachembazhukka to the Kerala audience for Onam, in place of usual cinematic dance and orchestra.

“I feel satisfied that I have been able to encourage and honour so many of the deserving artists in UK, so far away from our home. I consider this as a way of paying homage to our forefathers and teachers,” said Sasi. He has also conducted many musical programmes featuring old songs and has himself presented the folk art forms of Kerala such as Ottam Thullal and Kathaprasangam.

Sasi plans to make the 10th anniversary of Keli, which is not a registered organisation yet, a big event in 2019, where he intends to bring all folk arts of Kerala such as Theyyam and Koodiyattom to UK.