The Sahrdaya’s Space in Kavalam’s Kallurutti

Visak V. S.

University of Kerala,Trivandrum

Vol. 1, No. 1, 2016 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/bp.v1n1.05


The article discusses the space of Sahrdaya in Kavalam Narayana Panikkar’s famous production Kallurutti. The play is noted for its experimentalism and thanathu aspects, which insists that we should not forget our traditional performing arts as they are rich in classical, traditional and indigenous values.  The article looks into the relation between written text and performance text, the changes the written text undergoes in the production of a play and the argument whether the written text or the performance text is important.  In Sopanam (Kavalam’s theatre) the written text undergoes continuous improvisations and changes.  In the rehearsal camp the author and the director sit together and make changes in the text in order to make it appealing to the spectator.  The article also discusses the results of these productions and the effect it created after such improvisations. All these things are analyzed by collecting the opinions from general audience, esteemed spectators including the writer, director, actors and the artists of Sopanam.  The methodology I used includes direct interaction with the persons associated with the productions and interviews. 

“Facts are only random detritus of our lives until they are connected by story.  Stories, to paraphrase Robert Kroetsch, make us real.  If there is anything like truth accessible to us in the world, it must be through the ways we tell of ourselves to each other.  For such sharing, we use words, design images, make music and dance, we make what is elsewhere accepted as the warp in the fabric of life, the weft is the time of our hearing, or watching, or listening” (Moss 9).  I prefer to relate the literature as the warp and the performance as the weft in the process of drama transmission.  To generalize, the warp is the literary text and weft is the way of telling and its perception.  Both are complimentary to each other and for the right perception of drama we also need the right sahrdaya.  Perception differs in accordance with the taste and talent of the sahrdaya.  The play takes place in the mind of the spectator when he watches it.  Hence the mind of Sahrdaya is also a space of drama.

Every writer has his own way of telling stories.  Some clad the stories in realistic events, some tell it with historical facts, and some others say it through simple narratives.   Some say these stories through myths and rituals, some others through native threads.  Whatever it may be, their main aim is communication and perception.  Here I wish to analyze the space of Sahrdaya in Kavalam’s Kallurutti.  I also wish to analyze how far the strategies and techniques (theatrical experiments) adopted by the famous dramaturge Sri. Kavalam Narayana Panikkar is effective in fulfilling the purpose of communication and perception in the play Kallurutti.  Kavalam, through his life as a poet, musician, writer, dramaturge, shares truth that we know since we feel it within and where it fascinates and mesmerizes us.  Stories and plays of Kavalam prepare us to realize what we are or were, in the words of Kroetsch.  They take us back to our former traditions, rituals, and culture, and remind us of the rich theatrical elements they have and the need to stick to them.

Our world has changed a lot.  In ancient days it was the habit of grandparents to tell their grandchildren stories about our rituals, traditions, gods, folk tales, myths, supernatural figures, often in the form of bedtime stories. On account of this the young generation of those days was familiar with our culture and its roots. Now electronic media including mobiles and tabs assume the role of grandparents.  The real grandparents remain silent in a corner striving hard to make out the new equipment and the new generation children.  It is not right to undermine the importance of these electronic equipment upon children, but to a considerable extent they are successful in diminishing our valuable cultural identity.  They always try to project the stories from European or Western culture, especially Whiteman’s culture.  This might be a spontaneous phenomenon, though not a deliberate one.  It is also a kind of e-colonization.  Nowadays most of the Indians are not aware of the stories and myths related to their gods and goddesses.  At the same time they know more about Greek and Roman gods, American heoroes and English trickster or mythical figures like goblin, sylphs, faeries, lady of the lake to name a few.  Though they do not know Jatayu and Garuda, they know angry birds popular in e-games.  Instead of knowing Sanskrit works like Vikramorvaseeyam, Malavikagnimitram they know Julius Caesar, and King Lear from their tender ages.  Hamsa, Mayura, Narasimha, avatar, yaksha are not familiar with them, but they know its parallels in the western mythologies and cultures.  In this context the sahrdaya (spectator) remains only a silent observer and an appreciator of all these things.  Knowingly or unknowingly the sahrdaya’s mind adapts itself to the modern context and understands and appreciates these stories and figures from the European culture.

Sopanam Institute of Performing Arts is strongly rooted in the concept of imparting our native dramatic aspects to the new generation through its productions.  The founder as well as the artists of this theatre believe that drama is basically a spectacle and should be viewed directly and appreciated in the theatre.  Schechner’s etymology of theatre will underpin this.  The word ‘theatre’ is cognate with ‘theory’, ‘theorem’, etc.  Greek ‘theatron’ derived from ‘thea’ means ‘a sight’ and ‘theasthai’ means ‘to view’, ‘theorem’ is ‘a thing compelling the gaze, a wonder’ (Schechner 337).  So drama is a thing that should be viewed, experienced and understood in the theatre and not from the media.  Kavalam Narayana Panikkar never tried to flourish or market these native productions with the support of today’s visual media as he strongly believes that people should come and see the play where it takes place.  Even then, many theatre enthusiasts got interested and motivated by Kavalam’s experimental theatre…Full Text PDF