From The Audio CD
Introduced by Dr. Kanak Rele
Project Director: Dr. S.Y. Quraishi
Devised and Designed by: Kamalini Dutt
Associate: Bani Ghosh
Catlogue No: M100/08V
Format: Audio CD
Averitable feast for all music lovers, this VCD brings you some of the finest performances by eminent Kathakali dancers of our times.
It is part of Doordarshan’s special series commemorating 100 years of recorded music in India.
The series is a tribute to all the great artistes who have contributed to India’s rich music and dance heritage.
Kathakali is the story dance from the southern state of Kerala. Kathakali literally means “Katha” story and “Kali” a dance or a performance. It is a composite art where different actor-dancers take different roles. The stories are usually from the Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. Kathakali is a very majectic art and when you see the costumes you realize how much thought and how much aesthetic values have gone into it’s making. The entire idea is of ‘total theatre’ where there are acting, music-both vocal and instrumental and also the colour psychology in costumes playing equal roles. A performance starts by lighting of the ceremonial lamp. It has just two wicks-one wick is towards the audience and the other towards the stage. It signifies that the light of knowledge must spread not only to the actors but also to the audience. The message is very simple. It is “the victory of good over evil”. Kathakali can be described as the “theatre of imagination” where demons and good human beings clash in the realm of imagination, where the good human beings are eventually victorious.
Historically Kathakali is the end product of a long line of theatrical practices. The roots of Kathakali are to be found in the Kutiyattam the Sanskrit drama which has been the preserve of the Chakkyar Brahmin community for almost 2000 years. There are references to be found in the Southern epic Shilappadikaram which describes a dance that a Chakkyar presented in the honour of the victorious king. The present from Kutiyattam was finalized in 1000 A.D. Together with the Chakkyar’s art flourished Nangyar Kuttu performed by women. In the 16th century we come to the next phase in the development in the Krishnattam which presents the Krishna cycle in eight days. Later in the 17th century developed the Ramanattam which presents the Rama cycle. Ramanattam, which is no more practiced, evolved as Kathakali as we know today.
Kathakali make-up is the most complicated and the most colourful of all the make-up in the Indian classical dance styles. The make-up is called Aharya-abhinaya and it follows the colour-psychology.
The characters are divided into certain broadbased groups. The uttama the lofty characters. The madhyama the middling characters and the adhama the lowly characters. And each character has its own colour combination.
1. Pachha : The Sattvika characters e.g. Gods like Rama, Krishna,
(Green base) Great heroes like Arjuna, Nala etc.
2. Katti : The rajasika characters e.g. Ravana, Duryodhana etc. These are basically courageous people but they have an evil streak in their character resulting in the katti (knife).
3. Tadi (beard): The tamasika or lowly characters
i) Red beard : Evil characters like Duhshasana demons like Bakasura etc.
ii) White beard: Low born characters who are saintly e.g. Hanumana
iii) Black beard: jungle folk and very low beings like hunters etc.
4. Minukku: Shining make-up for women characters, sages, Brahmins etc.
5. Kari: Black make-up for low females like demonesses, huntresses etc.
It is to be noted that until a few decades ago Kathakali was practiced only by men even the women characters being enacted by men.
The Kathakali costume is very bulky. The actor-dancer wears superbly crafted headgear, called “Kireetam”. The size and shape of the Kireetam vary according to the type of the role. From the waist downwards layers of cloth are gathered together to create a billowing skit. Wooden ornaments coated with golden covering and inlaid with colourful stones complete the costume.
The facial colouring is prepared by grinding natural powders with coconut oil. The eyes and eyebrows are very heavily highlighted. Round the cheeks extending upto the chin is made an outline of a paste, the Chutti, made up of lime and rice powder which is bound together to form different patterns for different types of characters excepting women and some ordinary male characters.
A traditional Kathakali performance starts late in the evening by playing of the orchestra which is considered to be auspicious. It also announces to the villagers around that a performance is going to take place. The orchestra is very traditional and it has not been changed for almost three centuries. The lead singer has a metal disc. In his hands which is called “chengala”. There is the secondary singer who has heavy cymbals in his hands which are called ‘Yelatalam.” The cylindrical drum, the “chenda” is played by two sticks. The “maddalam”, which is a very ancient percussion instrument, is played by adding some coating on the fingers of the right hand in order to give resonance. The mode of singing is Sopana Sangitam indigenous to Kerala.
• Nala Damayanti
• Dussasana Vadham
• Pootana Moksham