Love for the arts and rhythm in particular runs in Manikandan Kallate’s family. His father Madhava Kurup played the chenda (cylindrical percussion instrument from Kerala) and idakka (hourglass-shaped drum from Kerala) for decades. An artiste at Akashvani (All India Radio), he was also a regular at temple festivals across Kerala and neighbouring states.
Thanks to the influence, Kallate started playing the idakka at an early age under the tutelage of his father. He would later undergo formal training under Thiruvilwamala Hari.
For the uninitiated, a little bit about the idakka. Called ‘Deva Vadyam’ (divine instrument), it is played as part of temple rituals, usually during daily pujas. It is an accompaniment to ‘Sopana Sangeetham’. Usually, the idakka artiste renders it outside the sanctum sanctorum of temples.
“I grew up surrounded by rhythm. I started learning idakka and chenda at an early age. By the time I was 11, I used to perform in temple festivals across Kerala as part of a panchavadyam team ( a temple art form with an orchestra of five). I used to play Idakka, which I am still continuing,” says Kallate.
A promo from Kerala Tourism explains that the idakka is the only instrument that qualifies as percussion and string, and can play both rhythm and melody.
While he is proud of the art he inherited, as a child there were phases when he was mocked by classmates.
“Kids in my class used to make fun of me when they saw me with the idakka or performing in temples. Despite that I used to perform in school and college youth festivals and have won several accolades. I used to be proud of the fact that I started earning at a very young age. As an idakka artist, I am still learning and practising on a regular basis. I believe practice makes anyone perfect,” he adds.
After completing his studies in multimedia, Kallate worked at a couple of ad and creative agencies in Kerala and Bangalore, before launching Graf Creative where he is Founder & Creative Director. But it wasn’t by choice.
A dream realised
“Multimedia was a booming career option in the early 2000s. I always wanted to pursue a course in fine arts as I do a bit of painting and sculpting, for which I have won prizes in university fests during college. But life took its own course and that (not pursuing fine arts) had always remained a disappointment,” Manikandan says.
During the pandemic, as he was browsing through the newspaper he read that the government had removed the age limit for undergraduate courses in fine arts. It seemed to be a signal from above.
“I applied. The admission was based on an entrance test. There were around 3,000 applicants and I bagged the 13th rank. So, at the age of 45, I enrolled myself for the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Thrissur Government Fine Arts College. I was a self-taught sculptor and painter. As a student, I am learning the nuances of sculpting and painting. Getting formally educated on an art is always a good thing,” he adds.
He continues to play the idakka alongside running Graf Creative. If that were not enough, Kallate is today ready to show the world his work as a painter and sculptor. “I am working on the theme for my exhibition with my sculptures and paintings,” he says.
His other passion is scripting for films. It hasn’t happened yet, but you can hear the rhythm building up to it.
“Apart from the regular scripts for my clients at the agency, I write scripts on a freelance basis for others. I have also completed one movie script where discussions are going on with producers to make it for the big screen. A few of them have shown interest,” he reveals.
The universe conspired to give the multimedia professional a degree in fine arts. It’s perhaps time for the world of films to resonate with the divine rhythm driving him.
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