Theatre

The gruelling training of a Kathakali artist

Sadanam K. Harikumaran, Principal of the Gandhi Seva Sadanam Kathakali Academy, talked, sang, wielded the cymbals and demonstrated the finer details of the Kathakali training. The physically demanding Kathakali exercises were demonstrated by Sadanam Srinath and Sadanam Vignesh.  

Convenor Shanta Dhananjayan presented the training methods in Kathakali on the 3rd day of the 30th Natyakala Conference.

Sadanam K. Harikumaran, Principal of the Gandhi Seva Sadanam Kathakali Academy, talked, sang, wielded the cymbals and demonstrated the finer details of the Kathakali training.

The physically demanding Kathakali exercises were demonstrated by Sadanam Srinath and Sadanam Vignesh. These exercises prepare the body for the strenuous all-night performances, wearing the big, heavy costume and projecting the dance beyond the magnificent facial make-up. The point of flexibility and stress on the muscle shifts during the course of the exercise-movement or sadhakam. The breathing exercises are also extremely important, emphasised Sadanam Balakrishnan. Wrong postures can lead to problems and if the muscle is stretched in tension then the flow of energy during the movement is blocked. Creative energy will not reach the eyes, rendering the performance effective.

The eye exercises required waking up at 3.30 a.m. in order to practise them after lubricating the eye with cow’s ghee. These were primary for the dancer to be able to express concepts of space and movement with precision. Sadanam Balakrishnan performed the scene where Ravana assesses the height and breadth of the silver Kailas mountain before lifting it, and demonstrated how mastery of eye-movements can create an imaginary mountain in front of the audience.

A video of the private close-door guru-shishya massage session taught the audience that it requires great discipline and dedication become a Kathakali dancer, for even the massage requires an ability to bear pain! Sadanam Harikumaran said that the pain made life interesting and he felt soothed and protected when his guru’s feet tread upon his muscles during the massage sessions.

Kalashams, the 24 mudras from the Hasta Lakshana Deepika, parts of the todayam and porappadu, the tala cycles were briefly dealt with. The session ended with a demonstration of sattvika abhinaya by Sadanam Balakrishna in the scene from Ravanodbhavam where Ravana is a baby asleep in his mother Kaikasi’s lap. The piece highlighted the close rapport required between the chenda player Sadanam Jithin and the maddalam player Sadanam Rejish and the performer who could not see them standing behind him, as the emotional emphasis dovetailed with certain beats, which supported the bhava.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jan 23, 2021 11:20:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/The-gruelling-training-of-a-Kathakali-artist/article15612949.ece

Next Story