Kalamandalam Gopi : A legend of Kathkali dance (paper 1- art and culture )

Kalamandalam Gopi : A legend of Kathkali dance (paper 1- art and culture )

Kalamandalam Gopi, a legend of Kathkali dance  appeared on the stage of the Sreebhadra auditorium in Thrissur after 18 months. The legendary Kathakali artiste, went on to give a performance similar to a cholliyattam (enactment of excerpts without make-up and costume), and followed it up by staging select scenes from the play Kirmeeravadham, composed by Kottayathu Thampuran.

Aptly titled ‘Bhavaprabhavam’ (splendour of expressions) Gopi presented emotionally charged scenes from various Kathakali plays beginning with ‘Ajithahare’, the famous padam of Kuchela addressing Krishna from Kuchelavrutham (Story of Kuchela). Although the Sastras do not list bhakti (devotion) as a rasa, it does enjoy a certain space in Kathakali plays. Gopi’s expressive face conveyed in full measure the import of the lines describing Krishna as one worshipped by Brahma and other Devas and as the charioteer of Arjuna.

Gopi’s minimal movements and immaculate expressions made the last two pieces from Nalacharitam Day III unforgettable. These were ‘Vijane bata mahati’ depicting Bahuka’s agony over separation from his consort, Damayanti, who he had abandoned in the forest, and ‘Marimaankanni’, dealing with his nerve-racking reaction to the news of his wife getting married again. However, in the absence of aharya (facial make-up, costume, ornaments and headgear), Gopi felt a conspicuous void in his performance.

What is kathkali 

Kathakali, classical dance of India mainly from Kerala .  It is a stylised art form, the four aspects of abhinaya – angika, aharya,vachika, satvika and the nritta, nritya and natya aspects are combined perfectly. The dancer expresses himself through codified hasta mudras and facial expressions, closely following the verses(padams) that are sung. Kathakali derives its textual sanction from Balarama Bharatam andHastalakshana Deepika.

Kathakali is a visual art where aharya, costume and make-up are suited to the characters, as per the tenets laid down in the Natya Shastra. The characters are grouped under certain clearly defined types like the pacha, kathi, thadi, kari or minukku. 

Kathakali dance is chiefly interpretative.  The characters in a Kathakali performance are broadly divided into satvika, rajasika and tamasika types. Satvika characters are noble, heroic, generous and refined. In pacha, green colour dominates and kirita (headgear) is worn by all. Krishna and Rama wear special crowns decorated with peacock feathers. The noble characters like Indra, Arjun and the Devas are some of the pacha characters.

The kathi type depicts anti-heroes. Though they are of the rajasika category, they are sometimes great warriors and scholars such as Ravana, Kamsa and Sisupala to name a few. 

The characters of the thadi (beard) category are the chuvanna thadi, (red beard), vellathadi (white beard) and the karutha thadi (black beard). Vellathadi or the white bearded character is generally that of Hanuman, the dancer also wears the costume of a monkey. Kari are characters whose make-up has a black base, they wear black costumes depicting a hunter or forest dweller. The make-up of Kathakali can be classified into the teppu, chuttikuthu and uduthukettu. The teppud done by the actor himself. Each character has a distinct teppu. The second stage is done by experts who specialise in make-up. The wearing of huge billowing skirts is called uduthukettu.

A simple stage is used. A large oil-fed lamp is placed in front of the stage and two people hold a curtain called Tirasseela on the stage, the main dancers stand behind it before the performance.

A Kathakali performance begins with the kelikottu, calling the audience to attention followed by the todayam. It is a devotional number performed where one or two characters invoke the blessings of the gods. Kelikottu is the formal announcement of the performance done in the evening when drums and cymbals are played for a while in the courtyard. A pure nritta piece known as the purappadu comes as a sequel to this. Then the musicians and drummers hold the stage entertaining the audience with an exhibition of their skills in melappada. Tiranokku is the debut on the stage of all characters other than the pacha or minukku. Thereafter, the play or the particular scene of the chosen play begins.

Kathakali music follows the traditional sopana sangeet of Kerala. It is said to be the ritual singing of the Ashtapadis on the flight of steps leading to the sanctum sanctorum. Now, Kathakali music also uses Carnatic ragas-the raga and tala conforming to the bhava, rasa and dance patterns (nritta and natya). The orchestra, which is also used in other traditional performing arts of Kerala, normally comprises the Chenda, Maddalam, Chengila, Ilathalam, Idakka and Shankhu.

Ilakkanam is that part of the performance when the characters get an opportunity to demonstrate their excellence in abhinaya. For the most part of the performance the dancers engage themselves in chodiattam which means acting in strict conformity to the words in the padams sung by the accompanying musicians.

Thanks to the service done by the poet Vallathol, this classical dance form received a new impetus and today many innovations are also being made to suit the needs of a changing society.

Source- The Hindu (paper 1- art and culture ) and website of CCRT (http://ccrtindia.gov.in/kathakali.php)


Dr Anshul Bajpai 

Plutus IAS Daily Current Affairs 17th September 2021

No Comments

Post A Comment