Art forms from God's own country

Impressive expressions  

BE IT dance or music, it has always acted as a unifying factor for a diverse society, for this form of expression of emotions has transcended all boundaries and fascinated people for its sheer grace and tranquil motions. Boogie, salsa, ballet, or tango the names may vary, but the sheer exuberance one experiences while going through the movements will always be the same.

The Kathakali Club, established eight years ago as a charitable trust in the city, has been acting as a bridge between Tamil Nadu and Kerala for cultural interactions. It has been presenting various ancient classical art forms from Kerala, like Kathakali, Mohiniattam, Koodiyattam and Thayyam.

According to the president of the Trust, C. K. Aravindakshan, the club aims at popularising art forms in Tamil Nadu, which has close social and cultural likeness to Kerala. The Club has also hosted several events to honour exponents for their contribution in the field of arts. It was through this Club the age-old musical art form `Sopana Sangeetham' was introduced here.

The Club has now organised `Nangiyar Koothu' to be performed by Kalamandalam Smitha Nangiyar at Siddhapudur Ayyappan Temple on December 29. This apart, there will be `Soorpanakhangam', will be based on `Ramayan'. Smitha Nangiyar will present `Poothana Moksham', a sequence from Krishna Leela.

Koodiyattam is a 1,000-year-old classical Sanskrit theatre, with Chakyars (a sub-caste of Kerala Hindus) and Nambiars (temple-castes of Kerala) traditionally performing them. Chakyars don the role of male characters, while the female roles are donned by Nangiars.

This art form has been recognised by UNESCO as `Human Heritage Art'. It is the oldest existing classical theatre form in the world, having originated much before Kathakali. According to legends, Kulasekhara Varma Cheraman Perumal, an ancient king of Kerala, created and mastered this form of dance.

His book `Aattaprakaram' describes various aspects on the dance. The performance is entirely based on the stipulations cited in Bharatha Muni's `Natyashasthram', the most authoritative book on the science of acting. The actor and the actresses render verbal dialogues in elegant Sanskrit and Prakrit (a colloquial form of Sanskrit).

Striking an elegant pose

Striking an elegant pose  

The make-up and the costumes are less lively. Mizhavu and Edakka and conch (musical instruments) provide the background music to Koodiyattam and necessary sound modulations in scenes. The art form has a `Vidooshaka' (royal clown) who humorously narrates the thematic development of the text, to the audience in Malayalam.

All the main characters in Koodiyattam customarily enact Nirvahana, a recollection of the past events in the story that forms a background for `stepping' into the `present'. The entire play is a lengthy affair and may sometimes take anywhere from a few days to a number of weeks for completion.

Sometimes attired in attractive costume, the Nangiyar sometimes also give solo performance of the Nagoya, called as `Nagoya Cooth'. The character, Kalpalathika, who is the companion of Subadra in the drama `Subadradhananjayam', presents `Srikrishna Charitam' Nangiyar Koothu. In this form of art, the Nagoya herself presents other characters too. This form of art provides ample scope for the actor to excel in histrionics. The audience then interpret the story with the help of `mudras' and `abhinayas'.

By Vidyashree Amaresh

Photos: S. Siva Saravanan