G. Venu. the preceptor of Kutiyattam in the contemporary age is the author of this work. He was the disciple for nearly three decades and inseparable companion of Guru Ammannur Madhava Chakyar the patriarch of Kutiyattam, the performing art form that had inherited the essence of Indian acting.
I learnt Ramayana Samksepam under Guru Ammannur Madhava Chakyar. Every day, I used to practice sitting in the inner hall of the Guru's home around 7 in the evening after taking a bath and applying ghee around my eyes. Madhava Chakyar would reach there by 7.30, after his customary oil bath, taken in the pond, still wearing wet clothes and after putting on the bhasma (ashes especially of dried cow dung) on his body. He would come with a lantern in his hand. Putting the lantern aside, he would sit down on the floor. This was because he had not finished saying his prayers, and believed it was polluting to himself to sit on a chair before saying prayers. I would be seated facing him, doing my exercises. After he was seated, the Attaprakaram of Ramayana Samksepam would be recited, which he knew by heart. I would show the mudra-s accordingly. Sometimes, he would stop reciting to give me the needed instructions. This time was allotted exclusively for me. This separate time allocation was because my studies were different from the others and required more explanations.
The listing of Kutiyattam on the UNSECO Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2001 served to confirm that the international community recognizes Kutiyattam as the best surviving example of Sanskrit theatre in the world and an outstanding example of human creativity.
The listing ensured that this highly sophisticated art form, its humour and pathos, its intricacies and multiple interpretations on words and meanings could be shared by audiences around the world.
Within the Kutiyattam tradition of Kerala, the practice of writing manuals and texts was prevalent during the 12-18th century. These texts provide a valuable source of information on the construction of the stage and KiittaMbalaii2, within the temple complex in Kerala, of the acting techniques, musical instruments that are now used like the drum Milavu, Itakka and cymbals, the main themes of the play such as the Ramayana, and even details of the actors and their social status within the community. This book follows in this tradition and serves as a manual for future generations of students of Kutiyattam.
Most traditional performing arts of India are difficult to document as each artist and each performance of the same play provides ample scope for improvisation and creative interpretation of the music, song and verse. Shri G. Venu, a disciple of Ammannur Madhavachakyar, has in this book, developed an innovative and illustrative notational system for the eyes, eyebrows, facial muscles, torso and hand gestures that form the unique and elaborate vocabulary of Kutiyattam. In this book Venuji has rendered the angikabhinaya for each line and word for the Attaprakaram for the enactment of the Ramayana Samksepam die story of Ramayana
This rare art form, in danger of extinction has survived for centuries due to the dedicated disciplined practice of a few Chakyar families in Kerala who have preserved its consent, structure and performance styles.
Book's Contents and Sample Pages
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