Kathakali Dance-Drama: Where Gods and Demons Come to Play

Kathakali Dance-Drama: Where Gods and Demons Come to Play

Kathakali Dance-Drama: Where Gods and Demons Come to Play

Kathakali Dance-Drama: Where Gods and Demons Come to Play

Synopsis

Kathakali Dance-Drama provides a comprehensive introduction to the distinctive and colourful dance-drama of Kerala in South-West India for the first time. This landmark volume:* explores Kathakali's reception as it reaches new audiences both in India and the west* includes two cases of controversial of Kathakali experiments* explores the implications for Kathakali of Keralan politicsDuring these performances heroes, heroines, gods and demons tell their stories of traditional Indian epics. The four Kathakali plays included in this anthology, translated from actual performances into English are:* The Flower of Good Fortune * The Killing of Kirmmira * The Progeny of Krishna * King Rugmamgada's Law Each play has an introduction and detailed commentary and is illustrated by stunning photographs taken during performances. An introduction to Kathakali stage conventions, make-up, music, acting, and training is also provided, making this an ideal volume for both the specialist and non-specialist reader.

Excerpt

Kathakali dance-drama is a distinctive genre of South Asian performance which developed during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in the Malayalam speaking coastal region of south-west India known today as Kerala State (Figure 0.1). Like Japanese noh and China's jingju (Beijing Opera), kathakali has become internationally known during the past thirty to thirty-five years as troupes regularly tour throughout the world as part of government-sponsored international cultural exchanges or through private initiative. the vast majority of these performances have been kathakali's dance-drama versions of episodes from the Indian epics (Mahabharata and Ramayana) or stories from the puranas-encyclopedic collections of traditional stories and knowledge. While there is a long history of 'experimentation' with content and technique, recent performances of new kathakali have brought increasing attention to and arguments about the place and role of experimentation and change in kathakali performance today.

This book takes account of kathakali as a distinctive 'traditional' genre of dance-drama performance particular to India's south-west coast, its entry into the transnational flow of global cultures as it is performed for tourists within Kerala and for new audiences in India and the West, and how kathakali interacts with and responds to contemporary politics in Kerala where the first democratically elected Communist state government came to power in 1957. Based on extensive ethnographic research in Kerala, India, conducted between 1976-77 and the present, this book articulates the dynamic set of relationships between dramatic/performance text(s), techniques and structures of performance, and reception among kathakali's multiple audiences. It describes and analyses how the same kathakali performance can appeal to kathakali's highly sophisticated connoisseurs whose reception is a refined aesthetic 'of the mind, ' as well as make a seven-year-old child break into tears. the book is based on observation of performances, archival research at kathakali schools and institutions, extensive interviews with kathakali actors and appreciators, collaborative work on translations of the kathakali plays included in the volume, and the experience of training in kathakali techniques.

Although the theoretical and methodological backdrop for When Gods and Demons Come to Play is similar to my earlier study of kathakali, the Kathakali Complex: Actor, Performance, Structure (1984a), this book focuses on texts-in-performance by including four plays in translation with introductions and commentaries, and two case studies of kathakali experiments-none of which appeared in my first book. For the general reader, I provide an introduction to kathakali make-up, stage conventions, music, and acting. For those most interested in details of technique, I refer the reader to The Kathakali Complex.

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