Koodiyattam workshop by Rajaneesh Chakyar
- Sulagna Mukhopadhyay
e-mail: sulagna64@gmail.com

February 10, 2014

Koodiyattam, an ancient form of art has an uninterrupted history of live performances at the Kerala temples for over at least 1200 years. It is the sole surviving form of classical Sanskrit drama in performance, and it preserves elements that date back to the origins of Indian civilization. This art form has visual and emotional effects on the prekshkabarga (audience) and engages them intellectually to understand the complexities of this form.

Kolkata audience watched a workshop and an hour long performance by the trainer Rajaneesh Chakyar. Held between 18th and 22nd January at Mysore Association, the workshop had students of dance, young dancers and also veterans. The main focus of this workshop was on breathing techniques for Satwika abhinaya (the mental message, emotion that is communicated to the audience through expression). Natya Sastra enumerates eight Satwika bhavas, which are so called because they need focus on the mind. These breathing techniques according to the Ayurvedic physiology remain as a living tradition in the practice of Koodiyattam. The navarasas are also enacted based on these principles. This technique not only enhances our understanding of the states of Satwika abhinaya but also gives a practice technique akin to pranayama, or pranayama of performance.

On 18th of January, the performance by Rajaneesh Chakyar at the hall of St. Xavierís Collegiate School was scintillating for the audience. Rajaneesh, the grandnephew of Guru Ammannur Madhava Chakyar was initiated into Koodiyattam at the age of seven at Ammannur Chachu Chakyar Smaraka Gurukulam with a scholarship from the Sangeet Natak Akademi.

Rajaneesh narrated the story of Sugriva. When the performance begins, the character Sugriva appears on the stage. He lives on Mount Rishyamooka. He is frightened of his elder brother Vali, the king of the monkeys. They both are enemies. Sugriva is in a state of sadness. Rajaneesh uses the different seasons to enact the different moods of the character. In the summer season, the sun is rising and it is the middle of the day. His body gets heated and there is no way to escape from the heat. Here the actor enacts how to react to the sunís heat. His mental state changes with every season and he gradually gets the idea of getting rid of Vali. Rama and Lakshmana come in to rescue. The play concludes here. He was assisted by Kalamandalam Hariharan on mizhavu (a big copper drum) and Mohana Aiyyer on talam.