This book unveils the secret world of Indian classical theatre-the fundamental principles of sublime grace, stage presence, and effective communication of emotions. It analyzes the techniques of Centripetal Effect, Centre Point, and the Introspective Illusion that influence the presentation of plays. It also analyzes the secret of grace. Bharata Muni has given an unbelievably detailed study of the facial muscles and head movements. He orders what to do but not Why? The first chapter gives the rationale behind every sloka dealing with this. The second chapter (Acting with the Face) and the third chapter (Acting with the Body)- both analyze the logic of using various parts of the body to create bhava. This book is unique since it studies the un revealed secret of dramaturgy; no other work has ever attempted such a logical study of grace and bhava
Narayanan Chittoor Namboodiripad belongs to the ancient Brahmin family, Chittoor Mana. Son of Sankaran Namboodiripad, the Yajuroeda exponent and Uma Antharjanam, Narayanan Namboodiripad is the descendant ofVasudevan Namboodiripad. the greatest Godman of the fifteenth century. Fate willed that Narayanan Namboodiripad be the spiritual heir, the ordained member of the family to perform Vasudevan Namboodiripads daily puja. Luck made him the first Namboodiripad to receive mantra initiation from H.H. Sankaracarva Abhinava Vidva Tirtha Mahaswamigal of Srngeri. He acted as the President of the Adi Sankara Twelfth Centenary Celebrations and the Digvijayayatra which carried the Sankara-jyoti from Kalady to Kedaranatha, He married Smt Saviihry and has two sons: Sanil C. Namboodiripad, BTech, MBA and Nimal C. Nambcodiripad, MBA. His published books include, The Adobe of Wisdom; The Adobe of Excellence; True Blue Flame; A Blissful Pilgrimage; Narayana Nauakas; Kshema Nikethanam; The Suieet Devotion; Aithihva Sampiuam; Aithihya Sanchasam; Sarvangabhinayam; and Rakshassinte Prathikaram.
Bharata Muni's Natyasastra or the "Science of the Theatre" is the fountainhead of Indian Dramaturgy. We can assume that dance is almost as old as civilization; we see the Vedas mentioning it and we have the actual evidence of dancing figures in the Harappan civilization. It must have developed over centuries and Bharata Muni, who lived about 2500 years ago, codified the principles of classical theatre with superhuman insight. He gave detailed instructions regarding the use of almost every part of the body to express the feelings and emotions. He gave specific commands on "what?" to do but never explained "why?" the actors and dancers should do so. Probably he explained the rationale of his classifications and instructions to his students but did not or could not write it down. There are several possible reasons for his omission.
Ancient India followed the "Gurukula" system of education and the students lived with their guru to learn various subjects directly from him. The students were expected to learn everything by heart and seldom did they refer to any written text because the process of writing then on tree barks or leaves was a laborious effort. The teachers, of course, knew their subject by heart and the students chanted what he taught again and again till they too could memorise it perfectly. Great gurus wrote everything in verse to facilitate this technique of learning the texts. Be it astronomy, mathematics, politics, medicine, philosophy, theatre or even the dictionary, most of the books were written in verse. Sometimes, they wrote meaningful aphorisms like Badarayana's Brahmasiuras, Patarijali's Yogasiuras or Narada's Bhaktisutras, and even though the students could memorise these easily, these needed elaborate commentaries to make the principles clear. That must have been one of the reasons why Bharata wrote most of his NatyaSastra in verse (plus a few prose pieces) giving detailed commands on what to do but not why. Had he written the logic behind his instructions, his text would have become too voluminous to write on tree barks or leaves. So he just told his disciples what to do but not why.
We can consider this from another point of view. A student who wanted to study one of these "sciences" as the masters called them, went about it in this way. First he learned the Sanskrit grammar by heart. Then he studied a few lyrical works to get an insight into the literature proper. Exceptionally good students learned even Amarakosam, the dictionary, by heart. Then the guru taught the sciences (mathematics, logic or even theatre was treated as a science) and of course, every aspect of it in detail. Some brilliant students who wanted to become great scholars learned the subject called Nyaya, meaning "logic," before they studied their favourite science. Probably, the gurus taught such intellectual giants the rationale of every principle or even the words used in the text. Such students could analyse the texts on their own. This system continued for more than 3000 years, even to the twentieth century For example my guru Prof. K Sivarama Menon learned more than eighty thousand lines of verse on Architecture and Astrology (and the whole of the dictionary, naturally) before he made his debut as an architect (of course he learned thousands more, even when he became the Head of the Dept of Maiayaiam in the KK T.M. College, Pullut). Printed textbooks were easily available, but he seldom needed them as he could recite the sciences from memory. My father, Sankaran Namboodiripad learned the whole of Yajurveda by heart and never referred to printed text in his lifetime. My learned friends, the late P.T. Narayanan Mooss went one step further and learned logic first, before learning Ayurvedic medicine so that he could analyse why he had to use each herb for different medicines; the logic behind it. As for the theatre, the performers learned the practical aspects of application as given in the Natyasastra and that needed unimaginable effort and dedication. Some of the brilliant professionals studied the theoretical aspects too. A rare breed of scholars probably thought over the rationale but it seems that no one bothered to write it down. That is exactly what I explain in this book-the rationale. NatyaSastra is very large, covering every aspect of the theatre constumes, dance steps, the grammar of the lyrics and so on. I have analysed just two chapters of the book: Chapters 8 and 10 (in the present book chapters are two and three, respectively). This book is not a translation of Bharata Muni’s verse; we do have good translations in English and Indian regionallanguages including that of my respected friend, the late KP. Narayanan Pisharody's excellent Malayalam version. In fact, Mr Pisharody's book has helped me tremendously. I try to answer "why?" -that is all. When I started on this project, my friends warnd me that I could not hope to get much help from the performers or scholars and that was true. None of the books accessible to me had reference material regarding the logic. So I had to depend purely on my own logic. Centuries have passed since Bharata's NiitYaSiistra and perhaps someone has written a book on the rationale; if so, I am sorry to say, I have not seen it. May be this is the first of that kind.
My philosophy of art rests mainly on three principles: (a) The Total "Aesthetic Expression," (b) the importance of grace, and (c) The idea of a common source nourishing different subjects. My guru, K.P.C. Narayanan Bhattathiripad, a great believer of Total Aesthetic Expression, made me a devotee of that. An expert of lJgveda and temple rituals, Bhattathiripad did not receive any formal training in the difficult form of art called Kathakali but became such a theoretician that he could present important characters on the stage without any rehearsal. My friend, Prof. Kummini Vasudevan Namboodiri, a real scholar, also believed in the Total Aesthetic Expression. I became a convert by watching the great artists Mani Madhava Chakkiyar and Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair perform. That is the first leg of the tripod-an actor must use his whole body (particularly the face) as an instrument of expression.
I have yet another foundation stone. My wife, Savithry Narayanan, convinced me that every dancer must have that elusive, difficult to define, quality called grace while performing on the stage. A graceful dancer, she taught me the nuances of allure. Of course, this is an ancient theory and most professional dancers know it. The surprising fact is that most of the dance teachers know the secret of grace and are able to teach their wards how to make their performance more bewitching. They are able to make even the less talented girls move with sinuous flow. I became a devotee of grace when I watched Yamini Krsnamoorthy and Kalamandalam Padmanabhan Nair on the stage.
When I started thinking over Natyasastra, I realised yet another truth. When we delve deep into subjects like Architecture, Sculpture, Philosophy, Temple rituals and Theatre, we see that the same fertile soil nourish them all. It cannot be otherwise as all of them are products of the same culture. I have a strange belief that if a person learns Sankaracarya's Advaita philosophy properly, other subjects become easy to study. My guru, H.H. Abhinava Vidya Thirtha Mahaswarnigal of Smgeri, the guru of Sankaracarya's own monastery, was probably the greatest scholar of the twentieth century and he mastered Grammar, Philosophy, Logic, Ritulas, Yoga, Architecture, Astrology, modern Engineering, and so on. He used to give wonderful discourses in several languages. I think that his thorough knowledge of philosophy helped him master other subjects easily. I believe that a comparative study of the allied subjects enables us to have an insight into Natyasastra. Interestingly, most of the ancient masters of Theatre knew such subjects. I am lucky to have some great gurus who are great scholars in these branches of knowledge.
I am sure that these three principles on which I built my aesthetic appreciation are universally valid and this book is based on those foundations. Apart from that, the edifice is my own and depend purely on my own reasoning. I certainly am not infallible; God alone has that perfection. I do not want to convince others that my deductions are correct but I shall be delighted if this book encourages others to consider the rationale of the ancient masters. It should be easier in the modern world becaue we have the printing press and the electronic magic to help us in our research. Computer might show us the accuracy of Bharata's commands.
Some diehard critics might question the practical benefits of learning Natyasastra but I can give numerous advantages of such a study. Let me give one example. Last year, I suffered from some trouble called Toulouse-Hunt Syndrome and had what is called double vision and continuous headache. Then I consulted Dr Haridas, the famous neurologist and as my condition had become had, he prescribed strong medicines. He also recommended certain eye exercises to supplement the medicines. He taught me these exercises but I decided to practice the superb eye exercises that the Kudiyattam artists do. The result was miraculous. Even Dr Haridas admitted that the eye exercise that I had learned from the Chakkiyars helped me tremendously. The doctor had doubted my complete recovery at first but thanks to my exercises and of course the doctor's potent medicines, I recovered fully. I am sure that the classical theories on dramaturgy can help us in every walk of life.
All the arguments regarding the rationale of Bharata Muni's orders and the classical theatre in India are my own but several friends have helped me with the practical aspects. My friend Pepita Seth has worked very hard over the manuscript and has given me valuable advice. Bornand brought up in England, Pepita Seth has been in Kerala on and off for three decades. I am sure that no foreigner knows more about the culture of Kerala, especially rituals such as Theyyam, but then, we do not consider her an outsider. I am truly grateful for her help. Kanjad Vasudevan Namboodiri, the great scholar, has helped me. So too my friends Raghavan Asan, Kuttan Asan, and Miss T.P. Sripriya. I thank them all.
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