Because the lockdown ends and Kathakali reveals resume, the back-room specialists reveal how the dance type’s elaborate costume and make-up has moved with the occasions
Earlier than carrying his headgear, Kalamandalam Balasubramanian goes right into a meditative mode . He prays in a sitting posture, arms reverently holding his kireedam, which the grasp will quickly repair on his head,winding it with a rough material. The 2-minute ritual marks the actor’s exit from the inexperienced room and entry on to the stage.
“The prayer instils the idea that I’m now the character in toto,” says Balasubramanian, contemporary from a efficiency final week. Because the nation slowly emerges out of the lockdown, a temple in south Kerala organised a Kathakali efficiency on Srikrishna Jayanti, which heralded the dance-drama’s return to its conventional platform after a spot of six months.
“Since March, the dance paraphernalia has been mendacity idle. Lastly, the prospect of a restoration,” says Chingoli Purushothaman, who did the make-up for the September 10 presentation of Kuchelavritham at Evoor close to Haripad.
About 25 km northeast of Evoor is Tiruvalla, the place a twentieth century drawing trainer’s experiment as soon as rescued a night-long present from an sudden scarcity of make-up artistes. Within the course of, Ok.P. Ramakrishna Panikkar, the lone make-up man on the venue, altered perpetually the seems to be of the Kathakali performer. To hasten the long-drawn facial chutti work, he used white paper as a substitute of thick rice paste for the raised border from the cheeks right down to the chin. The position of the rice paste was diminished to a glue — lining the muse to stay the paper. By the early Forties, this innovation turned the norm throughout Travancore.
Novel chutti approach
This was the last decade when Kathakali witnessed a revival with the emergence of Kalamandalam. “The establishment invited Panikkar to coach chutti college students within the approach,” says make-up veteran Kalamandalam Ramamohanan. “The type discovered acceptance.”
To not be left behind, north Malabar dancers too adopted the paper chutti. As an example, Mekkara Narayanan Nair (1929-2016) was initially educated to make rice paste chutti at Vengayil Kaliyogam, earlier than leaving his native village Taliparamba for P.S.V. Natyasangham as a teen. “At the moment, this Kathakali establishment in Kottakkal off Malappuram has adopted all of the contemporaneity related to chutti, nevertheless it carries sure traces of Nair’s authentic Kadathanadan college,” says Kannur-based make-up artiste Parakandy Kunhikrishnan.
Facial portray is integral to Kathakali, nevertheless it types only one a part of the preparatory drill. If the pure powders, made right into a paste with coconut oil, bear at the least half-a-dozen hues, no much less vibrant are the equipment of the characters within the four-century-old dance type.
“Sure primordial components stay at the same time as ‘aharyaabhinaya’ in Kathakali has developed with time,” says chutti artist Pallipuram Unnikrishnan, referring to the criticality of bodily look in character portrayal. “We owe loads to pre-classical Dravidian ritual arts comparable to Theyyam, Mudiyettu, Thiyyattu, Kalamezhuthu and even the traditional murals.”
Ramamohanan, 74, agrees, however believes Kathakali owes its seems to be primarily to Koodiyattam, the oldest extant Sanskrit theatre. “Perhaps Kathakali initially imbibed all elements of it after which went on to shed some options that proceed to be in in vogue in Koodiyattam,” he says. “One other supply is the pre-classical Krishnanattam ballet.”
To Ramamohanan, Kathakali’s much-refined Kalluvazhi type accorded significance to chutti solely within the second half of the nineteenth century. That was when Kuyilthudi Ittirarisha Menon turned the chief at Olapamanna mansion that patronised the humanities in Vellinezhi, west of Palakkad. When his disciple Pattikkamthodi Ravunni Menon went on to turn into the guru at Kalamandalam, it then had an modern chutti artiste, Kurungattil Ravunni Nair. “His pupil Othenath Govindan Nair additional improvised to provide you with a chutti coaching guide,” says Ramamohanan, hailing Vazhenkada Rama Warrier and his pupil Govinda Warrier.
Within the early Sixties, at Ramamohan’s Vellinezhi village was a younger carpenter, Kothavil Krishnan, who specialised within the woodwork of the Kathakali costume, which matches into the intricately carved headgear and ornaments. After Krishnan’s dying in 1989, his son Ramankutty additional enriched the craft and groomed his successors at Kalamandalam throughout his two-year tenure. Ramankutty died in 2018, however not earlier than setting up a manufacturing crew comprising his two sons and plenty of pupils.
A lot because the meykoppu ornaments for the torso and arms have gained extra sheen over the a long time, the Kathakali costume, particularly the clothes worn from stomach downwards, has turn into extra elegant up to now 50 years. Not solely has the uduthukettu gained a powerful measurement, the stiffly starched material inside, which created the puffed-up skirt, has been changed with plastic-laced sacks which are a lot lighter for the dancer.
“It takes lots of observe to make sure the uduthukettu is an ideal circle,” says nonagenarian Appunni Tharakan, one of the famend inexperienced room assistants as we speak. “Equally necessary is to take care of these costume objects over the seasons.”
South of Kochi, chutti artist Eroor Manoj, 38, factors on the flipside of a broad uduthukettu. “Some masters want frills so huge that it requires some 60 sacks in opposition to the usual 40. And then you definitely discover that the passage to the dais is slender,” he says, quoting comparable piquant situations from his uncle Eroor Surendran’s life as a inexperienced room assistant.
The flip of the twenty first century noticed the multifaceted Sadanam Ok. Harikumaran utilizing fibre-glass for headgears. That, once more, stemmed from an urgency. “Within the 12 months 2000, my troupe received an invite at brief discover for a Paris tour. I realised that artificial materials is less expensive than a wood kireedam that prices over Rs. 80,000.” Three years in the past, Harikumaran additionally got here up with an easy-to-wear uduthukettu organized with nylon sheets above a round thermocol body across the waist. As of late, even ready-to-fit chutti paper-cuttings aren’t uncommon outdoors Kerala.
And, in one other change, many ladies at the moment are doing chutti. From Barbara Vijayakumar of Southampton and Deepali Sinha of Delhi to Kalanilayam Sujatha of Kottayam, the record is lengthy.
Within the Kathakali inexperienced room, it’s the assistant who arms over the kireedam to the performer, signalling the beginning of the present. The next invocation is, in a means, a salute to the backstage artists.
The author is a eager follower of Kerala’s performing arts.