The facial make of the divine circle of fire in the classical performing art form of KATHAKALI in Kerala in India is highly fascinating one. This is an incarnation of the weapon of Lord Mahavishnu in the mythology of India.This represents the true spirits of vision and amazing power of virtue that overpower the lust and the vice. This is the version of the facial make of the character in a play of the legend in praise of the Lord.(What is seen in the image here is the painting I did in oil on canvas last year,depicting the face of the character as depicted in the format of the classical performance on the stage of KATHAKALI).
The classical style of dance renders everything in classicism.There is a story of a tribal magician who had practiced charms in the courts of ancient India during the Period of Vedas; he belonged to the southern mountains and lived along with his wife and son.The story originates as an extreme version of the Indian Classic Mahabharatha and has its own performing version in the classical style in Kathakali,the dance drama.This play is quite well-knit for the stage and charming to the audience especially due to its dramatic stage appearance.As it is told,the main characters are the tribal man and his wife.They are called ‘Malayan’and ‘Malayatthy’ respectively;’Malaya stands for the man of the hills and Malayatthy for the woman.I have watched the play many times on the stage and made attempts to paint them in poster colors during my boyhood while getting in touch with the early lessons in painting on paper.
The theme had never a fading effect in my theater experience and later on my teenage I was again caught up with the same and expressed it in a more realistic color scheme…but the forms remained almost the same.Then my attempt was to capture the moods of the couple in more natural way in expression maintaining the classic postures of dancing and drama.Although ,I have tried to ornament them with costumes having enough tribal splendor!
The theme was still with me even after a wide gap of years in my youth and multiple experiences both in life and career.At this time ,I had kept away from the places of performances and concentrated only on my job in administration management.Once I thought of painting a subject, the theme resurrected in my sensibility and I decided to paint the couple in a new attire and style of format.Thus, I painted my latest ‘Performers in Duet’ in oil color on canvas…!
- A tiresome business of the day ended by a long journey through the coastal road in a March in the past. Temple festivals had already been started around.So when I reached home, I thought of what happens that night in the nearby temples, it was heard that there had a classical dance-drama performance of ‘Kathakali’ ( which literally means the Play enacting legendary tales) that night. My thoughts departed me when the percussions were resonated over the lakes and lands on the ways across the temple, proclaiming the staging of the Play that night! The dusk was finished and I set out to reach over there….the night has fallen over the large field of the temple ; the entry part of that night’s performance had started, at a glance away from the road it was like a splash of golden yellow and orange for a moment when the shutter-button of my Nikon FM10 was released alive.
- When the ‘Entry’ was finished by half an hour, there started another session of percussions and singing where each one among the musicians competed with each other so as to have a triumph over the silent night! About an hour later these notes of concerts of curtain raising, the actual Play got a start with the emergence of the main character , especially the hero with the accompaniment of the heroin.Here it was a king and queen in a tale from the Classic, Bharatha, the legend of ancient India. Thus, with the song of praise, the curtain was unveiled before them..(it is conceived that the curtain stands for the universe)
- Here the king and queen are young couple having just married and at the thrill of the honeymoon..so they enjoy the spirit of togetherness in high ecstasy in the milieu of the royal garden and sense everything charming and delicious to the body and mind ,adding a heavenly reach to each other through the harmonizing situations and melodies of glorification…all the way they conjure up the beauty of the garden.On the stage, an awesome garden from the ancient times is reincarnated by the performers in the role of the royal couple with the help of expressions mainly on the face, especially the eyes,eyebrows,lips and the entire face filling with the nine sentiments ,and with gestures quite rhythmic and full of harmony encoded by the classical notes in variant points and counter-points emerging out of austere drums and narrative lines in songs .
- We see many gardens in many parts of the world in reality but the charm of garden being created here through the bodily expressions as described above develops itself into a full moonlit night as such decorating the honeymoon mood of the royal duet; the overwhelming passion on their faces become quite evident in postures depicting their love and attraction towards each other .
- When these narrative session is over, they begin their dwelling in the court as the role model as husband and wife in the might of the kingdom;They start living together….
After a while an element of evilness come across their way and causing innumerable troubles to them and separates them mercilessly with the help of another person in the vicinity of the king who was intolerant with the well being of the majestic pair.This character is the embodiment of evilness in the form of intolerance, personifying lust,anger and arrogance in sensuality. He is called ‘Kali ‘who stands for everything suppressed and subdued in the form of a devil, dark and black in nature.
Thus the queen ‘Damayanthi’ was separated from her king by ‘Kali’, the evil spirit and was deserted by the king himself for the sake of rescue inside a wildest forest far away from the kingdom and ‘Nala’,the king left the kingdom and lost himself in disguise as a horse-man in remote kingdom with another king .
Inside the forest, the young queen was saved from the catch of a huge snake by a wild hunter and as a thanks he approached her for love and living together inside the forest as his wife…anyway it proved to be a test for her to show her loyalty and integrity in love towards the king whom she conceived as everything in life! So when the hunter forced her further for his lust in love,she,with her magical fire of chastity, destroyed the hunter into ashes and saved herself from that crisis!
Thereafter, she met with some virtuous on goers in the forest and managed to reach her people in her homely palace and with great efforts regained her king with their kingdom from the clutches of ‘Kali’ and his instruments of evilness…and begun living again with her own king in more love than ever!
The night of the Performance was almost to end ;now ‘Damayanthi’ ,the queen and the core of the Play faced the lamp on the stage of ‘Kathakali’ with a bow of gratitude to the early stars of the dawn unveiling themselves in the eastern sky!