Kutiyattam is a theatre form that has the richness and depth acquired from an ancient history and a long and unbroken performance tradition of more than 2000 years.
Koothambalam meaning ‘temple for theatre’ is the exclusively designed venue for the performance of this unique theatre. Actors(Chakyar and Nangiar), musicians, costume and stage specialists(Nambiar) come together to realize the performance.
Performances are usually based on Sanskrit texts and their elaborate interpretations and dramatisation. The actor reigns in Kutiyattam. The ‘performance space’ and ‘performance time’ sets free a well trained actor like a bird to explore the sky. The actor is followed by the acompanying mizhavu that breathes life into every pulse, movment and emotion.
The craft and techniques of acting are a blend of both elements – high stylisation and folk (daily, rustic, worldly). The actors and musicians undergo several years of intense training and conditioning to master the complex techniques and skill and simultanoesly acqiure the capability of having the altered existence onstage.
Performances can hardly be time bound. The presentation of a single act of a play can go on for several days and nights, moments can be frozen and explored for hours in an almost meditative relationship between actor and sahrdya(one of good heart, spectator).
The theatre style embraces south India’s indigenous culture of conception and representation as well as the acting technique described in Bharatha’s Natyashastra, the treatise on Indian dramaturgy. Therefore it internalizes both the rigour and vitality of all the folk, ritual and martial arts together with the concepts of Classical Sanskrit theatre in India.
For all my friends who have never watched a Kutiyattam performance. I thought it is useful to have some visual introduction. This is a scene from the play Thoranayudham, Act Three of Bhasa’s play Abhisheka Natakam. The three characters are Hanuman, Ravana and Vibhishana. The situation is the dramatic meeting and conversation between Hanuman and Ravana in Lanka. The thre actors performing are (Hanuman- Pothiyil Renjith Chakyar, Ravana – Ammannur Rajaneesh Chakyar, and Vibhishana – Sooraj Nambiar). All three are are disciples of Guru Ammanur Madhava Chakyar, well known performers who are currently working as staff artistes at the Ammannur Chachu Chakyar Smaraka Gurukulam – Centre for Kutiyattam, Irinjalakuda.
Photo by Manoj Parameswaran, Copyright: Natanakairali
Here is a link to an online article on Kutiyattam by Sudha Gopalakrishnan http://ignca.nic.in/kuti0001.htm