Malayalam docu-fiction ‘Thevan’ pays tribute to folk artiste Thevan Peradipurathu

Directed by Najma Naseera Majeed, ‘Thevan’ captures the life and times of the versatile folk artist who faced caste discrimination

Directed by Najma Naseera Majeed, ‘Thevan’ captures the life and times of the versatile folk artist who faced caste discrimination

“Arts take shape from the torments of human souls…”, says director-actor Priyanandan in the docu-fiction The vandirected by Najma Naseera Majeed. The work covers the life and time of folk artist Thevan Peradipurathu from Peringode in Palakkad. The 27-minute documentary was released on March 21, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Thevan, who belongs to the Paraya community, has faced caste discrimination throughout his life. Although his original name was Vasudevan (one of the many names of Lord Krishna in Hindu mythology), he was never allowed to use that name because he belonged to a “lower caste”.

For the goddesses

As a musician and percussion artist, he performed Malavazhiyattam/Malavayiyattam and Cheruneeliyattam, ritual art forms of his community. Malavazhi and Cheruneeli are mother goddesses who are installed in the houses of Parayas and worshiped by them. Malavazhiyattam and Cheruneeliyattam are performed to propitiate the gods through music and drama.

Najma Naseera Majeed

Najma Naseera Majeed | Photo credit: special arrangement

Thevan received the awards instituted by the Kerala Folklore Academy and Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi, both in 2006. Najma, who works with Pravda Books, came across his life while researching a book on Kerala’s art forms on the brink of extinction . “There are many artists who remain largely unknown. As I learned more about him, I felt there was a chance that generations to come will know nothing about him at all because there isn’t enough material available about him. So I wanted to document what is known about Thevan. Instead of fiction, I chose to tell his story through the people who knew him,” says Najma. The 25-year-old is the author of the book, Enthatthishayami Jeevithama compilation of interviews with 35 celebrated Malayalis. The van is her first independent project as a director.

Thevan’s son and thimila artist Peringode Chandran mentions in the documentary that his father became an artist because of poverty. “He was trained to play the percussion by Chenda exponent Neettiyath Govindan Nair Asan, who was speech and hearing impaired. Govindan Asan was the uncle of achan‘s friend, Kesavan, who we now know as Kathakali percussion artiste and actor Kalamandalam Kesavan. achan was happy to get something to eat after classes. Meanwhile, Govindan asan, who was also my guru, became estranged from other members of the Nair community because he chose to teach a Dalit,” said Chandran, a recipient of the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi Prize and visiting professor at Kerala Kalamandalam for eight years. Chandran’s brothers also perform – Peringode Subramanyan is a Sangeetha Nataka Akademi Prize winner (2021) for edakka and Peringode Sreedharan is a percussionist. Another brother, Sivaraman, plays the elathalam.

Najma Naseera Majeed during the shooting of the docu-fiction, 'Thevan'

Najma Naseera Majeed during the shooting of the docu-fiction, ‘Thevan’ | Photo credit: special arrangement

When caste gets in the way

“We still face caste discrimination when it comes to performing in some of the famous temples in Kerala. It is a monopoly of upper-class artists, even though there are qualified artists in other communities,” Chandran added. He has filed a lawsuit for not being allowed to perform at Sree Krishna Temple, Guruvayur, and the decision is pending. Younger members of the family are reluctant to follow the path of their parents or ancestors because of caste prejudice, although they are artistically minded and professionally trained, as Chandran’s son Prasoon Chandran points out in the documentary.

In addition to being an artist and singer, Thevan played the kuzhal, an instrument he had made. He was also the ‘velichappadu’ (oracle) at a temple. Thevan had been given the patronage of Neelakandan Namboothirippad or ‘Aaram Thamburan’ by Poomully Mana in Peringode and even got the chance to perform folk songs for All India Radio’s Kozhikode station.

“He was an exceptional stonemason and used to make baskets and mats from bamboo and rattan. He was the mastermind behind the famous ‘Thoppikkuda viplavam’ at the school in Peringode. Children couldn’t come to school when it rained because they couldn’t buy umbrellas. So under my father’s guidance, they made hundreds of palm leaf umbrellas,” Chandran recalls. Thevan passed away in 2015 at the age of 84.

The docu-fiction, produced by 360degreepictures, is available at the link


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.