Dushyasana laughed at Yudhishtira for being a poor looser at the gambling table. Draupathi was dragged in from the middle of people behind whom she was hiding. She pleaded for mercy and begged hapless Yudhishtira for help. Her lips quivered, and her face shrunk. And years later, she pleaded Krishna not to help Pandavas reconcile, but to get them to war. Krishna remained calm and pleasant all through, his green face betraying no emotions. And in the ultimate war, Bheema was unstoppable. His face burned, eyes went red and his body trembled with anger as he searched for Dushyasala. And when Dushyasana fell, a raging Bheema drank his blood and pulled out the intestine with his canines.
Scenes from a Kathakali performance!
I was at a Kathakali performance organized by Bangalore Club of Kathakali and the Arts last weekend. Having got consent to shoot backstage, we arrived early and spent time watching the faces slowly come alive with colors. Here are some pictures and a few words. See more images on flickr group India Travel and Photography.
At the backstage
Preparing for the performance is a long process. The artists start applying colors on their face first, and then take help of a make-up person to give the final touches. Mixing colors started as early as 12pm for the show that was about to begin at 6.30pm. When we arrived at the scene around 2 o’clock, the greenroom was full with artists at various stages of colouring their face.
The artists relax before getting ready for the show
The day’s story was Duryodhana Vadham consisting four scenes. The first one is from the court of Dhritarashtra where Yudhisthira gambled away his clan and kingdom. The remaining scenes involved Krishna’s reconciliation efforts after the Pandavas return from exile, the war at Kurukshetra and Bheema’s revenge against Dushyasana and Duryodhana.
Our first introduction to the characters happened as the artists painted their faces with a brush in one hand and mirror in the other. Dushyasana – the evil – was painted in red(katti), while the good guys Yudhishtira and Krishna had fluorescent green (paccha) faces. Duryodhana, evil but royal, had a mix of both. Draupathi’s makeup had a fair face with long eyelashes, called Minukku.
mixing the colors
Duryodhana is a mix of katti and paccha
Kathakali evolved as an art form nearly four hundred years ago. It was then called Ramanattam, as the stories performed in those days were from the Ramayana. Achuthan Kutty, a retired scientist from BARC, now a connoisseur and artist, explained us with a child like enthusiasm on the intricacies of the art, about its history, the mudras and the rules of the performance.
On stage, it was a dazzler of a performance. Two and a half hours went like minutes as the actors duly justified the characters they had become.
Krishna shows his Vishwaroopa
An angry Bheema searches for Dushyasana.
The show culminated with Bheema defeating and killing Dushyasana and Duryodhana in the battle.
See more images on flickr.