“Jadayu Vadham”, is a great and very educational experience.
On 30th January 2023, the University of Hyderabad got to witness the Koodiyattam performance by Kumbhaka Collective, Kerala, organized by the Department of Theatre Arts, SN School of Arts and Communication, with the support of IoE (Institution of Eminence).
Koodiyattam is a traditional Indian art form from Kerala. It’s considered the oldest living theatre form as one of the ‘Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’ by UNESCO. The word Kutiyattam means “acting together”.Koodiyattam was performed by a particular community called Chakyar and Nangiar. And the drummer is called Nambiar. But it has changed since 1965.
It is usually performed only in temple theatres known as Koothambalam. This form tells the story through gestures called Mudras, also with chanting. And the essential part of this form is facial expressions, including Navarasas.
The story depicted in the performance was “Jadayu Vadham” in which we saw how Ravana and Jadayu fight each other and in the end, Jadayu dies. The story starts with Ravana taking Sita away to Lanka. When Ravana was on his way to Lanka with Sita in his flying chariot, Jadayu, the wise old bird, was resting in the forest. Hearing Sita’s helpless screams, Jadayu flew to Ravana’s chariot.
Jadayu was a great devotee of Rama. The wise bird knew that he was no match for the mighty Ravana. But he was not afraid of Ravana’s strength even though he knew that he would get killed by obstructing the path of Ravana. Jadayu decided to save Sita from the clutches of Ravana at any cost. He stopped Ravana and ordered him to leave Sita, but Ravana threatened to kill him if he interfered. Chanting Rama’s name, Jadayu attacked Ravana with his sharp claws and hooked beak. His sharp nails and beak tore flesh from the body of Ravana.
Ravana took out his diamond-studded sword and fired at Jatayu’s wings. As the sword hit, the frail wing tore off and fell, but the brave bird continued fighting. The fight went on for quite some time. Soon, Jatayu was bleeding from the wounds all over his body. Finally, the bird fell to the ground, bruised and battered. This way Ravana took Sita and continued his journey to Lanka again. This is the story of Jadayu Vadham.
The character of Ravana was played by Kalamandalam Charu Agaru and Jadayu was played by Kalamandalam Ramith Ramesh. Also, the instruments which were used during the performance were Mizhavu, played by Kalamandalam Sajikumar and Margi Mahesh, Idakka, played by Kalamandalam Sarath V G, Chutty, played by Kalamandalam Dakin, and Kuzhitaalam, played by a 1st-year student of Department of Theatre Arts, Shreyosree.
This whole performance was a very new experience for me and my fellow 1st-year students of Theatre Arts. The department had already organized a 20-day Koodiyattam workshop for us this month in which we learned the fundamentals of Koodiyattam, from its mudras to stances to different types of walks. And that workshop helped us in understanding the details of the performance more profoundly. However, to get to see the actual performance, and the preparations before it, like makeup, costumes, and rituals closely were a great and very educational experience for us.
The artists started getting ready 3 hours before the performance. The makeup took a lot of time as there were so many minute details and it had to be done with so much precision, but the final result left me in wonder. Plus all the beautiful jewelry and costumes added to its charms. While getting to witness all of this from so close, the first-year students were also busy setting up the performance space, from cleaning the space to putting the curtains, setting up lights and sound, arranging the chairs, etc. The performance was held in the open space at the Department of Theatre Arts, S.N School of Arts & Communication in front of around 500 audiences.
From the beginning till the end, the whole performance was very captivating. The hand gestures, the expressions, especially the way the artists played with their eyes, the postures and subtle movements, with such large and beautiful headgear as well, one could see the hard and long training the artists have gone through. The performance was a success and the applause, in the end, revealed how not only me, but every single person in the audience loved and enjoyed it thoroughly. This whole experience left me wanting to learn more about this beautiful art form and I’m so glad that I got to witness it. I thank the Department of Theatre Arts, S.N.School, and the IoE (Institution of Eminence) for this significant event.
Review by Ms. Niharika Choulda, Department of Theatre Arts