Friday, 16 April 2021

Navarasa Sadhana - Breath control for emoting in art - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Deep research into the technique of evoking the nine aesthetic sentiments or 'rasas' through the control of breath, by three generations of scholars in Kerala belonging to Kodungallur royal family, starting with Vidwan IlayaThampuran to Bhagavatar Kunjunni Thampuran, is what led to the discipline of Navarasa Sadhanam. The Kutiyattam master, late Mani Madhav Chakyar was one who constantly brought to bear on his extraordinary performances, this technique discovered by the Kodungallur family. Kutiyattam specialist G.Venu of Natana Kairali of Irinjalakuda, through years of deep inquiry into Kunjunni Thampuran's mind- boggling technique, became more and more convinced that this traditional knowledge system had to be made more accessible to enrich the contemporary performing artiste's technique.

Egged on by Sasitharan Tirunalan of the intercultural Theatre Institute, and actor Kalyani Balaji from Maharashtra, in 2005 G.Venu, with some trepidation, embarking on a Navarasa Sadhana workshop for performers of various art disciplines, met with thundering response. And this attempt became a forerunner to yearly efforts, in which over a thousand actors over the years have participated. This year, the 50th Navarasa Sadhana workshop, held under the auspices of Natana Kairali, as every year, attracted dancers and actors from different areas, with Kapila Venu, the Kutiyattam performer moderating with very brief introductions.

Tom Kingdon, Professor Emeritus, Emerson College Boston, well known theatre person who was with the Royal Shakespeare Company for twenty years, began his inaugural address for Navarasa Sadhana, lauding the immaculately trained bodies of Kerala's Kalaripayattu and Kutiyattam performers - able in a trice, of evoking all shades of emotion - this purely physical enterprise being without any personal emotional involvement on the part of the actor.

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