Divine masks for Gods' play

Divine masks for Gods

What strikes you at the very mention of Kathakali is the eye catching mask of the artiste, which is unique and arresting. The elaborate make up takes...

What strikes you at the very mention of Kathakali is the eye catching mask of the artiste, which is unique and arresting. The elaborate make up takes hours to apply, and has a code of its own. Vijaya Pratap divine1The Kalivilakku (the huge bronze lamp) that is lighted at the beginning of the Kathakali performance lasts for the whole night. In days of yore, people used to watch the all night plays with much enthusiasm and support the artistes in their creative endeavours. Nothing much has altered in Kathakali presentations, except the venues and the change of timings. From Kerala this art has travelled far and wide, yet retaining and zealously guarding its traditions. Recently, in Hyderabad, " Saparya " the cultural organisation that is dedicated to the revival of traditional artforms, put up for their Malayalee brethren, a full fledged Kathakali dance drama "Duryodhana Vadham", performed by some of the finest artists from Kerala including Kalamandalam Kesavan Namboothri- Duryodhana, (also the team leader). Kathakali is often described as a confluence of five elements, Nrittham (dance), Nrithyam (enactment), Natyam (expressions), Geetham (song) and Vaadyam(orchestra). "Duryodhana Vadham" has all these in the right measure and something more. It has the appeal of an action packed thriller for the modern, urban audience, which they can connect to. The long dance dramas from the Hindu mythologies are depicted conforming to the specifications laid down in Bharata Muni's Natya Shastra. The four kinds of abhinaya (acting) are described as Angika- moving the body parts, Vachika- dialogues, Aaharya �costumes & make up and Sattvika- internal emotions, expressed through minute movements of the lips, eyebrows, eyes etc. In Kathakali, all these categories of abhinaya recommended by the sage are strictly followed. In the rich repertoire of Kathakali, " Duryodhana Vadham"occupies a significant place. Written by Vayaskara Arya Narayanan Moossatu (1841 to 1902), the story spreads through various portions of Mahabharatha leading to and culminating in the death of Duryodhana which also ends the war.
The story starts with Maya Sabha, Duryodhana's humiliation, dice game where Yudhishtira stakes his kingdom, brothers and wife and loses all, one by one. Dussasana drags Draupadi to the sabha by her hair, and derobes her, Krishna comes to her rescue to save her honour. Draupadi takes a vow that she will tie her hair again only after smearing it with Dussasana's blood. After spending twelve years in exile in the forest and the thirteenth incognito, they return. Krishna's negotiations don't work and the war is declared. Bheema kills Dussasana and smears his blood on Drupadi's hair and her anger is appeased. What strikes you at the very mention of Kathakali is the eye catching mask of the artistes, which is unique and arresting. The elaborate make up takes hours to apply, and has a code of its own. It is classified into four basic sets namely Pachcha, Kathi, Thaadi and Minukku, based on the general nature and behavioural aspects of the characters. Noble and heroic persons with exemplary virtues fall into category Pacha (Green) The main feature of this class is the predominant green paint on the face, fringed with paper flanges. In "Duryodhana Vadham", Pandavas and Krishna have this Pacha vesham . The second category is called Kathi (Knife). Named so due to the knifelike design close to the nose, painted in red in most cases. Depending on the characteristic disposition, there is another variation in Kathi. Duryodhana falls into this category. Minukku is the plain make-up without chutty employed for female characters (Draupadi ). Shakuni is Minuku with a black beard. Roudra Bheema comes in a different makeup during the killing of Dussasana which creates a better affect. Chuvanna Thadi (Red beard) is used for demon-like make up for extremely villainous characters with fierce nature. The chutty and facial paintings are quite intricate. The headgear is very large in size. A large beard, red in colour, is attached to the chin for Dussasana. All this make up certainly adds and lifts the performance of each actor. We see practically how Aaharya highlights and aids in portraying that particular character- one fourth of the job is already done with the make up. Bharata refers to bhavas, the imitations of emotions that the actors perform, and the rasas (emotional responses) that they inspire in the audience. The main facial expressions of a Kathakali artist are the 'navarasas'( expressions) which are Shringaram (passion) , Hasyam( humour), Bhayanakam (fear), Karunam (pathos), Roudram (anger, wrath), Veeram (valour),Beebhatsam (disgust), Adbhutam (wonder,), Shantam (tranquility). Bharata says that plays should mix different rasas but be dominated by one. Here in Duryodhana Vadham, Bheebhatsa is the principal rasa portrayed. Music plays a great role in Kathakali, specially percussions like Chenda and Maddalam. Vocal, instrumental and orchestral compositions evoke the right rasas and bhavas during the performance. For "Duryodhana Vadham" two chendas were used along with the powerful maddalam during the Roudra Bheema's rage creating an exceptional impact. As kids keenly watched the fight between Roudra Bheema and Dussasana and cheered every time the latter was beaten up, one felt that Kathakali can surely attract our kids back to the classical arts. For them, nothing can be as exciting as watching a fierce battle, just a few feet away!
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