Monday, March 30, 2009

Why I hate Kathakali

My father being a non-Malayalee hated it. He found it impossible to sit patiently and watch. Mother on the other hand loved it. So being more of a Malayalee why do I hate it?

One friend and one who incidentally has done some Kathakali dancing himself told me that unless I understood Kathakali I would not be able to appreciate it. Certainly Kathakali is no rocket-science and neither its viewers, all in perfect understanding of the art. But the reason I despise it is because my first viewings of Kathakali I saw as a child were of "horrors" and that which caused not only revulsion but utter disgust for this art form. Let me explain.

Amma agrees that in Kathakali there is a seperate section dedicated to "Vadhams" i.e executions or killings. Can you imagine that? Some of them are "Keechaka Vadham", or the killing of Keechaka, (we know in the Mahabaratha how brutally Bheema kills Kechaka for making advancements towards Draupadi, Bheema's wife), "Bali Vadham" or the killing of Bali and the most notorious of them all "Hiranyakashapu Vadham", the killing of Hiranyakashapu by Lord Narasimha. Gruesome and grotesquely barbaric, Kathakali, the dance form relives these killings in all its brutality.

As a child I was unfortunate to watch the "Hiranyakashapu Vadham" something that made me wonder how barbaric the human race is to permit an art form revel in brutal killing in the form of a dance form and watch and enjoy it. The show was unbearable.
In one of his avatars, Lord Vishnu incarnates as Lord Narasimha a beastly God with the face of a Lion and with claws in his hands. On stage the lion faced creature first indulges in a duel knocking Hiranyakashapu immobile but alive. Then the Lion God goes about the torture, systematically ripping open Hiranyakashapu's chest and drinking his blood, pulling out his intestines and wearing them as garlands, organs being ripped out and spilling blood all over. And all the time Hiranyakashapu is struggling and writhing in unbearable agony and not being able to escape from the Lion God, Narasimha. The Lion God hungrily and with all evil in his eyes and face makes mayhem of Hiranyakashapu's body. Even in the Coliseum the killings were not so barbaric. Luckily I was not in a stage where I could run out. It was on T.V and in a movie. I have seen similar "Vadham" performances, again on T.V (thank God I could switch it off or change channels) only to be disgusted with it all the more. As a child watching such barbaric shows can only be a natural turn-off to such art forms no matter how much it is praised or lauded by others.

I would certainly not take my child to such a horror show.


Srikumar K said...

You are a highly individualistic person. Kathakali is part of nature. The individual should become part of nature if he has to enjoy kathakali. Love and other finer emotions are also very prominent in kathakali. Only one twentieth of kathakali is gruesome. Humour is also an important part. You need patience to watch kathakali. See live ones. If you want to see on TV then see it at 5AM everyday on ASIANETNEWS channel. Than your opinion will surely change. For guidance please read
"A friend"

Subash S L said...

Thanks for the input. I am always open to things. Unfortunately my first experiences with Kathakali has put a bad taste in my mouth.