Play of costumes and colours

A scene from Soorpanakhaangam   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Aaharya, consisting of makeup, ornaments and other aspects of stage craft, is one among the four-fold classifications of acting, Saatwika, Aangika and Vaachika being the other three. Costumes contribute to the fullness of a play, as it is suggestive of gender, sect, class as well as season, geography, location and so on, thereby enhancing effective communication. The basic purpose of the costume is to differentiate various characters.

Ammannur Gurukulam paid rich tribute to maestro Guru Ammannur Madhava Chakyar in his birth centenary year by organising a festival that concentrated on the variety and distinctness of costumes used in Koodiyattam for different characters. In order to showcase the diversity of the costumes, characters from various plays were enacted during the 13-day festival. Perhaps it was the first time that such a fete, focussing on costumes of this ancient theatre form, was organised.

Koodiyattam encompasses highly evolved forms of make-up and costumes. The chutti (white ridges on the cheek) forms a perfect background as it enhances the visibility of facial expressions as if seen on a white screen. The mark on the forehead is not the same for all characters and is not merely ornamental or decorative. Patterns of colours drawn on the face bear the influence of the art of Kalamezhuthu — ritualistic drawings on the floor using coloured powders. The basic colours are white, yellow and black and other colours are generated by combining the basic colours. Even the colour applied on an actor’s face indicates the predominant mood of the character enacted by the actor; for instance, red for fury and white for humour.

It should be noted that the characters are differentiated by minute changes or indications.

Character sketches

During pakarnaattam, where the same actor takes on multiple roles to narrate stories, indications such as a knot in the dress or tucking in of the skirt of the costume worn by the actor hints at the different characters the actor is essaying.

The select scenes, episodes and plays performed as part of the fete presented a spectrum of hues and colours, depicting Gods, demons, birds, animals and country folks to name a few. Incidentally, in all, the characters presented each of the Navarasas.

If horrifying was a mutilated Soorpanakha from Ascharya Choodamani, the heroics of Ravana were evident in Thoranayudham and the fury of Bali in Balivadham was intimidating. The Ascharya Lakshmana of Agnipraveshaangam marvelled at the sight of Sita coming unscathed out of the fire while the Vidhooshaka of Subhadradhananjayam evoked humour and one could see the pathetic and disgusted Samarabheeru in Mayasirassu. Ravana in all his majesty tried to cajole Sita in Asokavanikaankam.

Ravana in Asokavanikaangam

Ravana in Asokavanikaangam   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Stage craft needs a special mention. The feel of swirling waves were created on stage by intermittently unfurling a long piece of cloth, while a curtain held waist-high for Varuna suggested that he was emerging from the ocean.

A small stage above the main one was made for the performance of Jatayu, mainly to signify that the bird was airborne during his battle with Ravana.

All the artistes of the Gurukulam donned the roles on various days and handled the percussion department also.

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Printable version | Jan 11, 2021 11:19:22 PM |

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