Narration in Kathakali: A Study with Reference to “Ravanotbhavam”
Saturday, June 21, 2014 - 10:06
The paper tries to analyse the theatrical and narrative techniques of Kathakali with special reference to Ravanotbhavam of Kallekulangara Raghava Pisharody. The concept of narrative is described in the shade of the theory of Narratology in which the major concepts of Genette and Propp are given focus. A historical view of narration is given on the basis of Ayyappa Panikker’s Indian Narratology. The section Narration in classical cultural tradition in the paper describes the narration of major classical cultural traditions especially in art forms. The conclusion states that Ravanotbhavam is analysed in the light of Narrative theory as it stands as a pioneering attempt that engrossed the relevance of narration in a Kathakali Theatre.
Communication is an interchange of meanings and ideas between individuals through a collective structure of symbols. i.e. an exemplification. That communication is a necessity remains unquestionable. It epitomizes the human requirements, longings, and perceptions. In its simplest sense, we can outline it as human relationship, involving two or more persons who come together to share, to enter into a dialogue and to commune. Communication is “the exchange of meanings between individuals through a common system of symbol” (Britannica: 17). It falls into two categories; verbal and symbolic. Verbal communication occurs through vocal symbols like sounds, words etc. It is the common communication medium in a social order. It exchanges the basic conception of a society and we can name it as a socially constrained phenomenon. The origin of language dates back to the mythical concept of Babel tower in which different languages are created. It can be assumed that linguistic communication is bound up with a phenomenon of the basic knowledge of a language. The literary works are the verbal communication constructs and it will be difficult to make up an idea without knowing the language of the work. Symbolic communication takes place through symbols which is the illustration of a certain ideas. It can be called as non- verbal communication which makes use of signs or symbols. It has an advantage of transcending the bounds of any specific society. The use of hand gestures, body movements can be categorized as symbolic communication. This was categorized as the primary form of communication in which the language is absent.
Arts were not merely for entertaining purpose in the early epochs. It had inseparable relationship with human life. Ancient peoples used to dance in marriage fest and funeral ceremonies. Dance paved the way for compromising conflicts and for expressing gratitude, protecting farms, searching food, curing disease, destroying enemies, praying, singing and dancing were made tools by them. They imitated their activities like hunting and catching animals, to friends; which were the first step of dramatic art. Imitation and communication of feelings were the aims of every art. As this entertainment contains these two functions we can say the primitive forms of art (whether classical or folk art) there will be the influence of some factors of the circumstances in which they originate.
Art forms its foundation from both verbal and symbolic communication with a peculiar view of narration. The communication is annexed to the narrative politics of every art. It makes every art different. I try to analyse the relevance of the narrative techniques of Kathakali with special reference to Ravanotbhavam in this paper.
“Narration is the way in which a story is told” says Philip Rayner to stress the relevance of narration of a story. A story is the sequence of events as they happen in a temporal and spatial structure. The sequence of events denotes a continuity which has to begin then move chronologically with nothing left out. A story has to have a beginning and an end arranged in a chronology. Vladimir Propp, a famous Narratologist in his work, The Morphology of Folktale discusses 31 functions and 7 spheres of a story including the different elements of a story. He focused on the elements of content of a story. But Propp did not give proper discussion of narration and he avoids the narrative element of a story. Peter Barry criticizes this aspect of Propp’s system as lacking the discussion about the way narrative is presented in terms of viewpoint or style. Gerard Genette on the other hand focuses not simply on the tale but how the story is told or the process of storytelling.
A narrative is a cultural product of a society. It is a way of understanding the culture and way of living of a society. Usually a narrative study makes use of the displacement quality of language. This quality is stressed by Philip Rayner. Narrative makes use of 3 tools — logic, semiotics and linguistics. The tool of logic means logical sequencing and the blending of events in narration. The tool of linguistics exploits linguistic elements and the third makes use of the exchange of sign system in narration. Any performance whether plays or arts is a product of this system of synthesis.
History of Narration in India:
India has a long tradition of Narration beginning from the Vedic period. Akhyayika, The primitive Indian form of novel gives a clear evidence for the ancient relevance of narration. Ayyappa Panikker mentions Anandavardhana’s concepts of Katha, Parikatha and Sakalakatha to state the narrative tradition of India. Indian narrative concept developed with the Panchatantra stories and Katha Saritsagara. The epical narratives of Indian laid foundation for further imaginative extensions. A godly atmosphere of Devaloka or Vishnuloka is imagined and stories and woven with it. The narrative styles of India were given interpretation by the aestheticians like Abhinavagupta. K. Ayyappa Panikker in his work Indian Narratology explains the narrative tradition of India beginning from Vedas. The encrypted narratives focus on the traditions of literary narration in India.
Narration in Classical Cultural Tradition:
India is proud of its great diverse cultural traditions. Even though the linguistic culture is different, art forms made a unique narrative culture in India. Arts are varied, based on the different narrative techniques attained in the structure. The Arts make use of a common system which is labeled as symbolic communication. The classical art forms of India use various techniques of narration.
Koodiyattom follows a dramatic narration with the element of Vachika abhinaya. The dance forms like Bharatanatyam or Mohiniyattom narrates the content differently. Kathakali follows a different pattern of narration despite the fact it had taken many elements from different art forms.
“Theatre is a complex phenomenon associated with performer-audience transaction” (Elam, 6). Kathakali theatre has a structure which is similar to most of the theatrical forms and art forms of India. The stage is a rectangular shaped plot where actors, percussionists and musicians play a major role. The actors are the vital parts of the theatre. They perform all of the actions to communicate it to the audience through gestures and stylized movements. The musicians stand at the back side on the left side of the actor. There will be two musicians- ponnanni, who is the main musician and sankidi, who is the assisting musician. They will have Chengila and Ilathalam in their to cop up with thalam or rhythm. The percussions used for the Kathakali performance are Chenda, Ilathalam, Chengila, Maddalam and Idakka. Chenda is “equal to barrel – headed drum, this is a cylindrical double- headed drum usually played with two curved sticks and occasionally with one stick and one hand” (Zirrilli, 244). There are two sides for a chenda- valamthala and idamthala. Valamthala is commonly used side for the accompaniment. Idamthala is used during the entrance of special charters like vishnu, Indra etc. Chenda is usually accompanied by male characters and some female characters like Bhadrakali, Nakrathundi etc. Ilathalam which is a cymbal is a “bell metal hand cymbals played by the assisting singer” (Zirrilli, 245).
Chengila is an instrument, which is carried by the main singer. It is “the handheld gong played with a stick by the lead singer to keep the basic rhythm of the performance” (Zirrilli, 244). Maddalam is a “two barrel -shaped drum approximately three feet wide used to accompany any character or situation in drama”(Zirrilli, 247). Iadkka is an instrument used very rarely in the performances. It is used during sari nritta, which is a specialised welcome dance of the females used as an entrance technique. The curtain or thiraseela plays an important role in Kathakali. It is not simply a piece of cloth for hiding the stage before the performance. It can be seen as an alienation technique that distances the actor form the audience. This is the basic principle of Eastern theatre which does not favour Aristotelian concept of ‘Catharsis’. It differentiates audience from actor and even actor form character. Curtain is a symbolist element which allows the audience to see a man of epic times, who does not belong to contemporary period. It helps to form a concept of character which is the one above us than the one among ourselves, as the characters represent a mythology or legend. The lamp or kalivilakku has both cultural and religious context woven around it. It is the “the large oil lamp which sits at the center stage and traditionally provided the only illumination for performance” (Zirrilli, 245). Its light creates an aura of spirituality and knowledge according to traditional Indian concept. In classical theatre, it has two different purposes too. A lamp divides the stage for the entrance and exit of the actor. Its oily light falls directly into actor’s face, which gives a shining to his emotions and facial expressions. More than a setting of theatre, lamp has a religious and cultural significance, which also is important in a theatre. The stool or peedhom symbolizes a seat. It also represents the different levels of a character. If a character achieves a super human power, it is represented by climbing on the stool. For instance, Krishna while presenting his viswaroopa or his original form steps on the stool. To present the travel through the sky also, the stool is used.
Kathakali as a theatre makes use of different kinds of narrative techniques. It can be either a common one for all arts like Manodharmam or peculiar for any Attakatha or Kathakali text. While considering the history of Kathakali, it began to be considered as a narrative in the later stages of its development. Although Ramanattam was the primitive form of it, it gradually developed to a complete theatre when the focus was turned from story to narration.
Theatrical History of Kathakali:
Kathakali has a clear cut history which dates back from the Ramanattom of Kottarakkara Thampuran. Ramanattom is the first and primitive form of Kathakali in which Kottarakkara Thampuran makes use of Ramayana stories. The beginnings of Ramanattom as a devotional form intended to extol the life of Lord Rama who is a fulcrum to the Bhakti movement. There is no much evidence about the performance of Kottarakkara Thampuran, but it is believed that actors used to sing themselves used to sing the text during performance (Menon: 7). The origin and development of it was during 15-17 centuries. Even though Jayadeva has already penned Geeta Govinda in 12th century, the spread of Vishnu Bhakti in Kerala was much after it. Most of the art forms in India were influenced by Bhakti movement, which was sprouted in the South India and spread to North India. Sankara Deva and Mahadeva were the chief propounders of this movement in Assam. In Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and various other parts of India Bhakti movement also influenced the literature and many art forms.
Kerala was also not apart from the influence of Bhakti movement. The art forms of Kerala like Krishnanattom, Arjuna Nrittam, and Kathakali etc were influenced by Bhakti movement. Its origin in Kerala dated back to Ramacharitam Pattu of Cheeraman, Kannasaramayanam of Niranam Rama Panikker, Krishna Gadha of Cherusseri, works of Poonthanam, Melpathoor, Ezhuthachan etc. The Bhakti movement in India influenced many literary works. The epics Ramayana and Mahabharata stand at first in the list. Bhaktisoothras of Sandilya and Narada are much famous in their theme of devotion. By A.D. 6, Bhakti movement transmitted to the regional languages. Many keerthanas were a part of it. The Shaiva- Vaishnava tradition increased Bhakti among the people who had divisions like Shaivites and Vaishnavites. The Shaivites are the devotees of Shiva and Vaishnavites of Vishnu. In Tamil Nadu Vaishnavites were called Azhvars and Shaivites as Nayanars. Tirumuruga is a Shaiva literature written written by 4 Shaivites. Perumal Thirumozhi is one of the important works by Vaishnavites. In Karnataka, Madhavan was considered the pioneer of Bhakti movement. Purandara Dasa kritis were very famous not only in Karnataka but almost all over India. Bhakti aimed at achievement or attainment of moksha or salvation, which is the foundation of Indian philosophy and life.
In Kerala, Bhakti movement had two streams. One is during A.D 7-9 and second during 15-17. “The first phase is very vague in Kerala history” (Cherukunnam, 10). The foreigners like Rakshakoodas, Chalookyas, Pallavas etc. it was at the same time Buddha and Jain Religion had its fall. Most of the people who followed their path turned immoral. But Sankaracharya through his orations has a great influence in re- rooting lost morals and devotion. The second stream of Bhakti movement is deeply rooted in the history. It was during 15-17 centuries. There was a trend of conversion to Christianity. During 12th century, the Brahmins, who were known as the Namboodiris, conquered the whole land. There came strict system, as we know insisted on four castes or Varnas namely Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, Soodras. This system made Namboodiris, the elite Brahmins.
Kathakali during its development was not a part of Bhakti movement and it was established as an art form which helped for its later progresses. The plays of Kathakali were narratives taken from the epical and legendary traditions; there was a little influence in the development of it. There was the use of stories of Rama in the early periods of Ramanattom and then it moved to an era of Mahabharata stories. Kottarakkara Thampuran was the pioneer of presenting Rama stories. The credit of transplantation of Rama stories to ‘non-rama’ stories is achieved by Kottayam Thampuran. He wrote four plays on Mahabharata which changed the single heroic image to multiple personalities- Bheema, Arjuna, Yudhishtira. After this era there was a wide change in the concept of heroic narration to anti heroic narration.
Relevance of Anti-heroic Narration in Kathakali:
After the age of Kottayam Thampuran, which was the Golden age of Kathakali assumes a similar pattern, beginning with a sringara pada and ending with prosperity by solving the crisis. The heroic characters like Yudhishtira, Arjuna, Bheema became irrelevant after the age of Kottayam Thampuran. The characters like Ravana, Narakasura became relevant and this attempt was seen as an important step of narration. The supreme significance given to anti-hero characters or asuras was a landmark in the development of narration of Kathakali. This became a landmark in the narrative history of Kathakali as it completely altered the narrative patterns of it.
Theatrical Techniques used for Narration in Kathakali:
Kathakali makes use of a lot of narrative techniques which adds to its theatricality. Some of them are:
Mudra is the hand gesture used for the performance. There are specific mudras to specific words. Kathakali uses 24 basic mudras from the Hastalakshana Deepika. There samyutha, asamyutha ans misirtha mudras. For e.g.: if we show tripataka and mukura together in two different hand it is ‘shiva’. Hastalakshana Deepika is the basis for the mudras in Kathakali and mohiniyattom. It is the “catalogue of basic hand poses” (Zirrilli, 73). Mudra plays a major role in focusing the narration of a play in Kathakali. It is the major communication medium of a narrative. Cholliyattam and Manodharmam are two kinds of situations in which mudras are relevant. Cholliyattam is the abhinaya of padams in a stage and Manodharmam is the actor’s text without the support of a padam.
Navarasas are the nine basic facial expressions which an actor learns. “Rasa is accomplished as a result of the conjunction of Vibhava, anubhava and vybhicari bhava” (Dasgupta, 191).it means the flavour of essence. There are basically nine rasas which is nava (nine) rasa and it corresponding bhava or emotion. The rasa can be seen as the equals of the daily life emotions or bhava. It is represented below:
Bhava Rasa Basic state
Rati Sringara The erotic, love, or pleasure
Hasam Hasya The comic, mirthful or derision
Sokam Karuna Pathos and sadness
Krodham Roudra Fury, anger, wrath
Utsaham Veera The heroic vigour
Bhayam Bhayanakam Fera, terrible
Jugupsa Bibhatsam Repulsive, disgust
Vismaya Adbhutha Wonder, marvellous
sama Santa Peace
Sringara is considered as the king of rasas. There are sambhoga sringara and vipralambha sringara. Sambhoga sringara is the love in union and viprlambha sringara as the love in seperation. Hasya is not laughter but humour created using either a situation or a mode of behaviour. Karuna is closely related to bhavas like sokam, santapam etc. There are three kinds of sentiments namely heroic sentiment which is veera, furious sentiment which is roudra and terrible sentiment which is bhayanaka. Adbhuta is the bhava of amazement. The bhava of divine peacefulness is santa. “Bharata, in his Natyasastra does not consider santa as a rasa” (Krishnan, 28). According to him excluding santa there are 8 rasas and 8 corresponding bhava. Bhava is the emotion and rasa is its manifestation in the art forms.
Navarasa as an acting technique helps the narration of a story. The basic emotion of the story and its narration in Kathakali differ very much. This is done successfully in Kathakali with the help of Navarasa. The situation of Kirmeersvadham did not offer a scope of Sringara padam in the story. But the deviance done in the narration extended its scope.
3. Facial Expressions:
There are usually different facial expressions like thadam ilakkal, purikam ilakkal, kannu sadhakam, netti ilakkal, kazhuthilakkal etc. Thadam ilakkal is the movement of lower part of the eyes. It is moved to show anger or sudden movements. Purikam ilakkal means the movement of eyebrows. For showing rasa the movement of eye brows is important. Kannu sadhakam is the practice of moving eyes to all directions. Netti ilakkal is also an expression to show surprise or wonder. The facial expressions are the locution of narratives. It is through this the narrative is conveyed to the audience. This is done in a strict pattern in the study classes or Kalaris of Kathakali.
Kalasam is the “dance compositions that punctuate the stanzas of the text in performance and are danced according to the most appropriate mood of the scene” (Zirrilli, 245). It acts as a link to the anupallavi and charanam. Usually kalasam will be an iratti that performs in the doubled rhythm of the padam. It is helpful to repeat pallavi. Most of the plays make use of this. There are various kinds of kalasams. Edakalasam is a type of kalasam which is used in the middle of the line before the completion. There is another type called naliratti which is four times that of the basic rhythm. The development of the kala will be gradual. We can see edakalasam in Daksha’s padam yagasalayil in Dakshayagam. Vattam vechukalasam is the type of kalasam which is done by circling around. This is the common kalasam in most of the plays. Another important kalasam is adakkam. The actor goes to a corner to take the kalasam. Ashtakalasam is also a type of kalasam which represents over happiness or joyfulness. Eduthukalasam is for entrance of the actors. Kalasam in narration comes as an alienation device that makes the audience aware of themselves. Kalasam distances the audience from the story. It is a deliberate break of narrative. In the eastern theatres these kinds of alienation techniques has been a major part even from the early times.
5. Entrance and Exit of the Actors:
The entrance and the exit of the actors is very important in a theatre. The actor enters with two ways like eduthu kalasam which was said above and second is the kidathakatheemthom. The exit will either be by putting the curtain or by seeing off by the other character. The exit of Panchali in Kalyanasougandhikam is of second type. But the exit of Hanuman in Kalyanasougandhikam is using curtains.
Slokas are the metrical compositions with a third person narrative. It is the exposition of the situation of the plot. Usually the sloka will be Sanskrit and the padam which follows this will be in manipravalam which is the combination of Sanskrit and Malayalam. There are vandana slokas which are offerings or prayers to the God. It will be during the beginning and end of the play. Another important thing which serves the same function of sloka is dandakam. The rhythmic pattern will be different and valam thala is usually used for it.
It literally means play the role of another person. In Kathakali the actor himself becomes the lion which he sees and he himself who sees it. In Bakavadha, the monologue of Baka uses this technique. We can see Baka himself becoming the saints and he himself. The technique is used widely for depicting a different point of view for narration.
It is a technique of interpolation in which is the soliloquy of the characters of kati or knife, thaadi or beard characters etc. This can be seen in most of the kati and thaadi characters. It is seen as a narrative technique to explore their own experiences.
This is a technique that etymologically means curtain look. It is the “curtain looks used for the entrances of certain characters who, by their manipulation of the curtain, reveal certain enduring aspects of their inner nature” (Zirrilli, 251). It is a narrative technique that throws light to the nature and condition of the characters.
10. Use of Space:
The use of space is an impetus to the actor. He changes the place by revolving on the stage. Adidikkida is used to show the journey of the character. The technique of creating something from nothing is also a theatrical technique. The making of chariot by Mathali in Nivathakavachakalakeyavadham is an example for that.
Narration in Kathakali:
The Indian classical art forms differ itself in the variety of narration where the plot remain the same. Without the presence of the props it expresses narration effectively and clearly. In a classical theatrical form like Kathakali, narration advances through various techniques to catch the span of attention of audience. Here the non-literary elements are communicated through various techniques apart from the linguistic richness. The stories are not narrated directly. There is a need of making it strange to attract the audience. There are 2 kinds of narration – Primary and Embedded according to Peter Barry. Primary narrative comes first and embedded is the hidden one. A visual performance makes use of both the narratives in which the story comes as primary narrative whereas the techniques form an embedded narrative. Keir Elam’s concepts of Primary and Secondary sign can be used synonymously for these types. Elam points out that sign have two meanings-primary and secondary. Primary sign is the denotation of the object. For Example, the sign crown is the symbol of king, which is a primary sign. Secondary sign is the connotation of the object. If the same crown is called as symbol of majesty, it becomes secondary sign. The material of the primary sign is called sign-vehicle. The crown acts as the sign- vehicle in this. The sign-vehicles make a representation of communication.
Relevance of Anti-Heroism in Kathakali:
The nature of a character plays a major role in spinning a story around it. The characters from epics might be differently narrated in different forms of social discourse. M. T. Vasudevan Nair’s The Second Turn, Amis Tripathi’s The Immortals of Meluha or Shashi Tharoor’s The Great Indian Novel were some of the attempts to re construct the epical tradition and characters. The trilogy-Kanjana Seeta, Lanka Lakshmi and Saketham of C.N. Sree Kandan Nair (the famous dramatist of Malayalam) was a retelling of the Ramayana stories different perspective. It was during the beginnings of 18th century, there was a shift from typical heroes to anti-heroes in the narration of Kathakali. Anti- heroes tend to become heroes in the plays like Ravanotbhavam of Kallekulangara Raghava Pisharodi, Karthika Thirunal’s Narakasuravadham, Balivijayam of Kalloor Namboodirippad etc.
After Kottayam Thampuran which was the Golden age of Kathakali even assumes a similar pattern beginning with a Sringara Pada and ending with a prosperity by solving the crisis. The heroic characters like Yudhishtira, Arjuna, Bheema became irrelevant after the age of Kottayam Thampuran. The characters like Ravana, Narakasura became relevant and this attempt was seen as an important step of narration. The supreme significance given to anti-hero characters or asuras was a landmark in the development of narration of Kathakali. The major Kathakali characters of that time were satwika character who were of heroic characters including Bheema, Arjuna, Dharmaputra, Nala etc.
Narration in Ravanotbhavam:
The first endeavor of those was Ravanotbhavam [The Birth of Ravana] by Kallekkulanagara Raghava Pisharodi. This play shows the aberration from the concept of Kathakali as a classic theatre. Besides presenting literature as itself, Ravanotbhavam replicated the liberty of actor or director which was a noteworthy change.it was just a translation before which simply converted literature into body language. After Ravanotbhavam, literature became unimportant and body language only gained relevance reflecting the individuality of character gained relevance. Kaplingad Namboodiri, a veteran artist was the pioneer who indulged in changing the direction of Kathakali theatre in 18 th century. After Kaplingadu, the valorous and furious characters like Ravana, Narakasura etc also attained importance. The gradual development of emotions replaced the importance of plot in the repertoire.
The narration of Ravanotbhavam is like this:
We can see Ravana as the valorous emperor who established the empire of Lanka by defeating trilokas. The play begins with the statement: “I am happy. What is the reason for that?” Then he goes back to the reasons of his happiness. Ravana depicts his story like this: Once I, my mother along with my brothers were travelling in the forest of Madhuvana. One day I was asleep on the lap of my mother. My mother heard a noise and assumed that it was the voice of Puspaka Vimana of Vais Ravana. She was so sad seeing the conditions of Ravana and VaishRavana who were brothers. Looking up with jealousy and down with pathos she said “O pity”. The looking of the mother is very peculiar as it throws light to the pathetic condition of Ravana which is shown by looking down and the prosperous condition of VaishRavana by looking above. Ravana says: “I woke up when her tears kissed my face. I asked the reason”. My mother conveyed the grief. Seeing the condition of mother I went to praise Lord Bhrahma”. After this, Ravana went to please the Lord along with brothers. The next scene is very relevant with the creation of homakunda [sacred fire] for the prayer. A substance is created from emptiness purely with body language. Here starts triputa 3rd kala. He was even powerful to make sun static. Then he began to praise the Lord by cutting his heads one by one. Here starts the 4th kala of triputa. After cutting 9 heads he started to cut the last and at that time Lord appeared before him and gave three booms. One was to have money and prosperity, another to win trilokas and the third was that he should not be killed by anyone other than humans Here the tala changes from triputa to chempata or aadi. Then he returns to mother and was happy with his present condition. The main peculiarity of this play is the scope of body language in the narration.
In literary pieces the techniques of letter writing or description is used to develop a plot. Whereas in a play carries certain props adds to the content of the story. In classical theatre especially Kathakali the presence of such props are absent. The actor creates the mood of the narration through an angika abhinaya which is done with different organs. The creation of Homakunda in this play is an instance for this. Ravana makes homakunda with the help of his own body. There is no presence of any stage properties. With mudras and expressions, an image of Homakunda is created.
There is a traditional concept of narration in which the binary opposites play a relevant role in shaping a story. Here the author through the narration of Ravana’s story is dismantling such a traditional notion of narration. The narrative techniques used in the play are also very peculiar. It exists as a different attempt while considering the history of Kathakali. The pattern of Ravanotbhavam differs in this it is depicted as a flash back where the events travel from the present to past and then again to the present. Todorov’s structure of narration can be read parallel with this. Todorov gives a simple formula to narration:
Equilibrium – disequilibrium – equilibrium
Ravana as a recipient of the three booms is satisfied with his own present condition. He thinks about the past where he was dissatisfied with his condition. Then after the narration of the past he again comes to present where the equilibrium is regained. The narrative develops gradually from the present to the past with the technique of flash back. The monologue of Ravana is narrated differently. Tentedatam and Pakarnatam are the techniques used for this. Tantedatam is the depiction of one’s own present and past. Pakarnatam is the change of one actor into different characters. Pakarnattam and Tantedattam help the narration to deviate in a different pattern.
Tantedattom uncloaks the past and dissatisfaction of the character which can be seen as a narrative analysis. It is an analeptic narration that stresses the reference of past. This is a common technique seen in the soliloquy of veera characters. Baka in the play Bakavadham is introduced using this technique.In this play Ravana encoils the story of his own past. The structure of tala begins from Triputa 1st kala and ends with chempata. Pakarnattom is the usual way of depicting other characters in any classical art form. The eka abhinaya art like Mohiniyattom widely uses this technique. Ravana is the only character present in the first scene. Ravana changes as mother and son with the actor’s body language in the first ranga. The sleeping Ravana and the awake mother are acted simultaneously. The emotions of the mother carrying the child on the lap and the emotions of a son are depicted correspondingly. When lord brahma appears before Ravana, the pakarnattom of the actor to both characters of Ravana and brahma can be seen.
The traditional narrative concepts explain the presence of certain elements like hero villain, heroine which are the part of the struggle in the narration. Here Ravanotbhavam deviates itself from this traditional notions. It is clear that Kathakali as a traditional theatre did not strictly bound to the story. The narration which stressed the need of novel techniques and concepts was relevant for it. Gennette’s notion of focalisation is relevant in a narrative discourse. It is a view point or the perspective of the story or the narrative. When the literary focalisations are named as first person narration, second person narration and third person narration, the visual narration names it as external focalisation, internal focalisation and Zero focalisation. The external focalisation is the view point of a person outside the play. The soothrdhara of ancient Sanskrit plays can be categorized under external focalisation. The chorus of Greek plays was also external focalisers. The internal focalisation is the perspective of a character. The character guides the story through his/her feelings and thoughts. It can be a soliloquy or an unspoken narration through his/her past. Zero focalisation gives a perspective of an omniscient narrator.
Ravanotbhavam can be categorized under internal focalisation in which the character speaks and expresses the story. Gerard Prince views that the most classical narration are Zero focalisations. The traditional eastern concept of narration is also stressing a necessity of Zero focalisation. The play differs where the focalisation is completely internal in which the character release his own story.
The strength of a narration is in the hands of a narrator who is narrating the events. The narrators can be inside the story or outside it. The different narrators are presented as an attempt to give different focalisation to a story. Ravana as a narrator is the homodiegetic as he is present in the story. He tells his own story alone. He is addressing the silent listeners who are not a part of the story. A homodiegetic narrator according to Genette is the narrator who is present as a character in the story he/she tells. The depiction of past and present experience of Ravana extends to a reference of time in the story. There are three portrayals of time-past present and future. The importance of time gives us a sense that the chronology of a story and narrative differ as an effort to render a different pattern. With reference to time there are 2 types of narration in the words of Genette-analeptic and prolepsis. Prolepsis is a flash forward in which the events of the story are anticipated.it denotes a future reference. The imaginative experiences also fall under this. Analeptic narration is a technique of Flash back in which the past is narrated. Ravanotbhavam uses analeptic narration where Ravana describes his experiences of past. The tala pattern of the play also adds to the narrative richness. The tala during the first ranga begins with triputa 1st kala and advances to the 5th kala. The change of tala from triputa to chempata is also noticeable.
The narration within an art form itself differs in as the method of treating stories in different ages is different. Ravanotbhavam is viewed as a communication medium that tries to shape a strong thread of narration. The content of the story is a short piece from the life of Ravana but how it is narrated makes it different. The use of techniques effectively lies in the hands of a veteran artist. Ravanotbhavam can be seen as a historical development of Kathakali as it is an attempt to make it a theatrical narrative. Apart from presenting many characters the actor monopolizes the stage with his body language and the narration advances through him. Every story can thus be seen as a medium of narration different from the non-literary elements present in it.
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Books in Malayalam
Cherukunnam Purushothaman. 1992. Poonthanavum Bhakti Prastanavum, TVM: Kerala Bhasha Institute.
K.P.S. Menon. Kathakali Rangam, Kozhikode: Mathrubhumi Publications.1957.
Krishna Kaimal. Aymenam.Kathakali Vijnana Kosam, Kottayam: DCB. 2000
Venu Gopalan, P. Cholliyyatatinte Soundaryadarsanam, Vallathol Nagar: Kerala
Jyotsna Krishnan A. belongs to Thrissure, Kerala, India. She has finished her masters in English and Comparative Literature from the Pondicherry University. Currently she is doing her M. Phil in Cultural Studies at Kerala Kalamandalam. Her interests are Cultural Studies and English Language Teaching.