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South Indian Classics Kathakali Now avialable in Chennai, Tamilnadu
Other South Indian Classics

We have a wonderful team for Kathakali and other major south Indian Classics.

Our team hails from Unnayi Warrier Smaraka Kalanilayam of Govt. of Kerala. The institute was established in 1955 and now it has excellent facilities and the right ambiance for learning the intricacies of Kathakali with some of the reputed names in the field of Kathakali. Now they can perform more than 40 popular Attakathas ( Stories ) These professionals are well trained and they also give training to many students.

Our team of experts are led by Sri. Kalanilayam Gopi Master who is the head of the department of kathakali Actors in in the Unnayi Warrier Smaraka Kalanilayam with more than 9 years of training and performance around the globe like Dubai, Paris, Abudabi.etc

We also have other great performers like Dr. K.R Rajeev ( cancer Specialist - Amrutha Institute of Medical Science Kerala ) Who has more than 10 years experience in Kathakali

Also kalanilayam Vinod & Kalanilayam Sandheep who also have more than 10 years of experience.

Our team of south Indian classics are well trained professionals to perform special interesting stories easy to understand for today's generation

The most popular stories enacted are

1 Nalacharitham (a story from the Mahabharata)
2 Duryodhana Vadham (focusing on the Mahabharata war after profiling the build-up to it),
3 Kalyanasougandhikam,
(the story of Bhima going to get flowers for his wife Panchali)
4 Keechakavadham
(another story of Bhima and Panchali, but this time during their stint in disguise), 5 Kiratham (Arjuna and Lord Shiva's fight, from the Mahabharata),
6 Karnashapatham
(another story from the Mahabharata),
7 Nizhalkuthu and Bhadrakalivijayam
authored by Pannisseri Nanu Pillai.
Also staged frequently include stories like
8 Kuchelavrittam,
9 Santanagopalam,
10 Balivijayam,
11 Dakshayagam,
12 Rugminiswayamvaram,
13 Kalakeyavadham,
14 Kirmeeravadham,
15 Bakavadham,
16 Poothanamoksham,
17 Subhadraharanam,
18 Balivadham,
19 Rugmangadacharitam,
20 Ravanolbhavam,
21 Narakasuravadham,
22 Uttaraswayamvaram,
23 Harishchandracharitam,
24 Kacha-Devayani and
25 Kamsavadham
And many more...

The main facial expressions of a Kathakali artist are the 'navarasams' (Navarasas in anglicised form) (literal translation: Nine Tastes, but more loosely translated as nine feelings or expressions) which are Sringaram (amour), Hasyam (ridicule, humour), Bhayanakam (fear), Karunam (pathos), Roudram (anger, wrath), Veeram (valour), Beebhatsam (disgust), Adbhutam (wonder, amazement), Shantam (tranquility, peace). The link at the end of the page gives more details on Navarasas.

Kathakali is a highly stylized classical Indian dance-drama noted for the attractive make-up of characters, elaborate costumes, detailed gestures and well-defined body movements presented in tune with the anchor playback music and complementary percussion. It originated in the country's present day state of Kerala during the 17th century and has developed over the years with improved looks, refined gestures and added themes besides more ornate singing and precise drumming.
The picturesque state of Kerala has gifted India with a dance drama known as Kathakali. Embedded in stories from the epics, Ramayana, Mahabharata and from the Puranas (ancient scriptures), the dance form is believed to have originated in the 16th century. Kathakali can be described as a highly stylized classical Indian dance-drama, noted for the heavy make-up and stunning costumes of the dancers. Detailed gestures and well-defined body movements (presented in tune with anchor playback music and complementary percussion) are some other notable features of the dance. Elaborate masks, huge skirts and big head-dresses are uniquely used by the performers of Kathakali.

Kathakali is thought to have originated from pioneer dance-drama forms - Ramanattam and Krishnanattam. The word "attam" means enactment. These two forms of dance, along with Kathakali, dealt with presentation of the stories of Hindu Gods Rama and Krishna. Kottarakara Thampuran, the ruler of the south Kerala province of Kottarakkara, composed several plays on the Ramayana, which led to the evolution of Kathakali. Today, Ramanattam and Krishnanattam forms have become completely extinct, but the story plays continue to be a part of Kathakali. It originated in the 16th century AD, approximately between 1555 and 1605, and has been improved miraculously over the years.

Long Recitals
Kathakali is emotive as well as narrative in nature and its recitals are generally very long. This form of dance is usually performed in the temples. The dancers encompass dance with dialogue and try to bring myth and legend to life. This dance form is accompanied by drums and vocalists. The dancers have such strong convictions about the characters they play that they even swap identities with the legends. Traditionally the performance begins after sunset and continues till late in the night. Sometimes, it takes the whole night for one performance to be complete. Nowadays, due to shortage of time, it isn't rare to see performances as short as three hours or even lesser.

Kathakali has three groups of performers
Kathakali has three groups of performers, including actor/dancers, vocalists and percussionists. Without one another is not possible. The actor or dancers play a variety of roles, including those of kings, gods, demons, heroines, animals, priests, etc. Each role has a particular style of makeup and costume as its code. Hand gestures or mudras, along with extensive facial expressions and eye movements, are used by the actors to convey their dialogs to the audience. The legend is narrated in the voice of the vocalists. The instruments consist of cymbals and 3 types of drums - Chenda, Edakka and Maddalam, with each of the drum producing a distinct sound, used by the third group (of percussionists).

Kathakali is considered to be a combination of five elements of fine art:

  • Expressions (Natyam, the component with emphasis on facial expressions)
  • Dance (Nritham, the component of dance with emphasis on rhythm and movement of hands, legs and body)
  • Enactment (Nrithyam, the element of drama with emphasis on "mudras", which are hand gestures)
  • Song/vocal accompaniment (Geetha)
  • Instrument accompaniment (Vadyam)

Even though the lyrics/literature would qualify as another independent element called Sahithyam, it is considered as a component of Geetha or music, as it plays only a supplementary role to Nritham, Nrithyam and Natyam.

Kathakali stage
Traditionally there are 101 classical Kathakali stories, though the commonly staged among them these days total less than one-third that number. Almost all of them were initially composed to last a whole night. Nowadays, there is increasing popularity for concise, or oftener select, versions of stories so as the performance lasts not more than three to four hours from evening. Thus, many stories find stage presentation in parts rather than totality. And the selection is based on criteria like chorographical beauty, thematic relevance/popularity or their melodramatic elements. Kathakali is a classical art form, but it can be appreciated also by novices—all contributed by the elegant looks of its character, their abstract movement and its synchronization with the musical notes and rhythmic beats. And, in any case, the folk elements too continue to exist. For better appreciation, perhaps, it is still good to have an idea of the story being enacted.

A Kathakali actor uses immense concentration, skill and physical stamina, gained from regimented training based on Kalaripayattu, the ancient martial art of Kerala, to prepare for his demanding role. The training can often last for 8–10 years, and is intensive. In Kathakali, the story is enacted purely by the movements of the hands (called mudras or hand gestures) and by facial expressions (rasas) and bodily movements. The expressions are derived from Natyashastra (the tome that deals with the science of expressions) and are classified into nine as in most Indian classical art forms. Dancers also undergo special practice sessions to learn control of their eye movements.

There are 24 basic mudras -- the permutation and combination of which would add up a chunk of the hand gestures in vogue today. Each can again can be classified into 'Samaana-mudras'(one mudra symbolising two entities) or misra-mudras (both the hands are used to show these mudras). The mudras are a form of sign language used to tell the story.

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