Balakrishnan's Kolkkali comeback
A visit by our team inspires Kolkkali artist to ignore health setbacks and preserve a cultural tradition
A former star performer of Kolkkali from the Pulaya community, 68-year-old Balakrishnan T. M, had stopped performing years ago due to the gradual decline in the popularity of the art form. About three years ago, the Dalit artist suffered a stroke and was also affected by goiter. However, when the members of our team visited him to collect the songs he knew for the LoreKeepers project -- an initiative of ARPO and Faizal and Shabana Foundation -- they discovered that he was a treasure trove of such songs. This interaction awakened Balakrishnan to the value of the oral traditions he carried.
As the team finished recording the songs, Balakrishnan pleasantly surprised everyone by demonstrating the dance form's footwork without the aid of his walking stick (Read about his daughter narrating this to The Week magazine.)
Motivated by the newfound appreciation for his own art form, Balakrishnan bravely resumed Kolkkali dances, disregarding his physical ailments. He also began the process of passing down this traditional art form to his daughters in the coming weeks. The Balakrishnan family attests that our interaction with him achieved something that his doctors couldn't do.
Here is a song that he sang on that day: