Nine-hour ancient Kerala Sanskrit theatre enthralls capitalSeptember 26th, 2010 - 3:17 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Sep 26 (IANS) The capital was treated to a nine-hour performance of the mythical tale “Shakuntala And The Ring of Recollection” in the ancient Kutiyattam style of Sanskrit theatre from Kerala dating back to the Vedic age.
Staged at the National School of Drama’s Abhimanch theatre Saturday evening, the act was performed by members of the Natanakairali Research and Performing Arts Centre for Traditional Arts founded in 1975 by Gopal Venu in Kerala’s Thrissur district.
Gopal Venu is a performer, teacher and scholar of kutiyattam and senior disciple of guru Ammannur Madhava Chakyar, who pioneered the revival of the tradition. Venu has authored 14 books on the performing arts of Kerala.
This is the first time a nine-hour Kutiyattam dance drama with two 45-minute breaks was performed in the capital. The performance, which began at 3 p.m. ended well after midnight.
In keeping with its early format of people’s theatre, the cast of 13 with musicians, drummers and cymbal players, performed to the light of a single lamp.
The script, adapted from Kalidasa’s original, was a mix of Sanskrit and the indigenous Prakrit. Directed by Gopal Venu, the drama was divided into three segments to narrate the love story of Shankuntala and king Dushyanta.
The artists dressed in traditional and elaborate kutiyattam costumes and heavy facial make-up, similar to Kathakali, relied on ‘abhinaya’ (facial expressions), ‘mudras’ (elaborate hand gestures) and sing-song dialogues with rudimentary classical melody, to tell the story. Their movements were slow, languid and suggestive of the emotions within.
The audience remained glued to their seats - lulled by the hypnotic quality of the dancers’ movements and the music.
“Kutiyattam is the oldest surviving form of Sanskrit theatre tradition in India that traces its origin to Vedic performances nearly 2,000 ago. It is a highly stylized and complex theatre language with traditional hand gestures and facial expressions. The art form was recently declared by UNESCO as a ‘masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity’,” noted dancer and researcher Nirmala Panicker, who worked with husband Gopal Venu on the choreography, told IANS.
“Each performer has trained in the genre for at least 15 years. Reference of Kutiyattam or koodiattam is made in the ancient Tamil text ‘Silappadhikaram’ - a landmark of Sangam literature. The genre was performed by a sect of Brahmins known as the Chakyars associated with temples. It was preceded by several temple rituals and the performance went on for several days,” she said.
The Chakyars also performed the koothu or the solo performance of the theatre, she added.
The Brahmin performs the koothu (dancing act) of the ‘ardhanareeswara’ donning the garb of a half-man and half-woman to extol the virtues of both. This koothu was staged in the courts of the ruling Perumal kings, the ‘Silappadhikaram’ cites.
The play began with an invocation by a sutradhar (narrator), who saluted the beings of the three worlds followed by king Dushyanta’s deer hunt and his visit to Shakuntala’s hermitage.
The second part of the play enacts the love story between Shakuntala and the king, culminating into their wedding and parting. The third act recreates the story of their reunion after Shankuntala shows the king the ring he had given her.
The musical repertoire comprised the traditional Mizhavu drum, Edakka and the Elatalam (cymbals).
“We plan to bring more such traditional performing arts from across India to Delhi. The kutiyattam performance was the grand finale of a month-long workshop for students of NSD with performers from Kerala to hone body language…The dance is special because it is so internalized and soulful. These nine-hour performances are very rare,” NSD chairperson Amal Allana told IANS.
- Asia-Pacific theatre students to brainstorm in Delhi conclave - Dec 23, 2010
- NSD to set up centre in Agartala - Oct 19, 2011
- Performance art may be slogan of future - Feb 25, 2012
- NSD's Bal Sangam begins from Nov 8 - Nov 04, 2011
- NSD reaches out to northeast for unearthing talent - Nov 18, 2011
- Theatre emerging as the new diplomatic tool - Jan 07, 2011
- New content, support set stage for theatre's resurgence (March 27 is World Theatre Day) - Mar 26, 2011
- Tagore reinterpreted at NSD's Bharat Rang Mahotsav - Jan 03, 2012
- Shakespeare's play comes to Indian villages - in tents - Nov 06, 2010
- Regional theatre sets stage for Games - Sep 09, 2010
- NSD, Polish drama academy ink agreement (With Image) - Jan 09, 2012
- Traditional Norwegian theatre akin to Kathakali: Director - Nov 28, 2010
- 13 Asia-Pacific drama schools begin weeklong conclave - Jan 03, 2011
- Arts festival to probe link between science, arts, religion (With Image) - Apr 21, 2011
- When Lord Indra answered the call of Vedas (With Images) - Apr 15, 2011
Tags: dance drama, dancers, dialogues, disciple, drummers, facial expressions, hand gestures, hypnotic quality, love story, minute breaks, national school of drama, New Delhi, performing arts of kerala, prakrit, recollection, revival, saturday evening, shakuntala, thrissur district, vedic age