Dr. K. G. Paulose’s Vyangyavyakhya: The Aesthetics of Dhvani in Theatre, an interpretation of the Chera king Kulasekhara’s concept of theatre, will rekindle interest in Kerala’s signal contribution
Rama Varma Kulasekhara’s Vyangyavyakhya (10 century AD) lay buried among dusty archival materials centuries after it was written. A few Sanskrit scholars attempted to study it, worked on it but failed to get it published. The epoch-making Dhananjayadhvani and Samvaranadhvani, collectively titled Vyangyavyakhya, comes out translated, with detailed interpretation, and other add on features. Vyangyavyakhya: The Aesthetics of Dhvani in Theatre by K. G. Paulose, former Vice Chancellor, Kerala Kalamandalam and Fellow, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, will be released at the inaugural session of the forthcoming Kulasekhara Theatre Festival that gets underway at Tripunithura on February 24.
Natya has been defined as the "Abhinaya of Rasa and Bhava". Etymologically the term 'Abhinaya' is derived from the root Ni to carry, with the prefix 'abhi' in the sense of towards. Hence, 'abhinaya' is the theatrical action or performance communicating 'Bhavas' and carrying them to the spectator. These 'Bhavas' are aroused in the hearts of a responsive audience and ultimately they are ideally transformed into 'rasas'.
Sarangadeva, therefore, understands Natya, quite in consonance with the concept of Bharata and Abhinava, primarily as 'Rasa' and secondarily as 'abhinaya'.
According to the Upanisads, as interpreted by Advaitism, Ultimate Reality which is Consciousness or the Self is pure knowledge (jnana). It is static, and without activity (niskriya). It is also devoid of self-consciousness, as there is no duality. The 'Self' does not have a 'notself' to help define itself.
Padmabhushan Kavalam Narayana Panikkar
Dr. K.G. Paulose introduces the great Kerala playwright Kulasekhara in glowing terms as follows: - “…the outside world did not know that Ananda Vardhana had a strong champion in the distant southern most tip of Indian peninsula who applied the principle of Dhwani to theatre and paved the way for the survival of Natyasastra’s Prayogamarga”. Evidently this has reference to the ‘Vyangya Vyakhya’. The dominant characteristic of Vyangya Vyakhya is that it is the chronicle of how the text reaches the domain of performance. It can be construed as the forerunner of the later contributions of the chakyars of Kerala towards preservation of acting manuals like Attaprakaram and Kramadipika. The author enacting the different roles in his own texts postulates the significant philosophy of ‘swayam prekshaka’ which quality can be attributed to the Cosmic Dancer, Lord Siva, - the one having a dual quality of being an actor / creator as well as a creatively critical spectator. Mahendra Vikrama Varman, the author of Mattavilasa prahasana in the opening benediction qualifies ‘Kapaleswara’ as yah prekshakascha swayam. This rare quality is inherited only by rare poet-play wrights like Bhasa, Saktibhadra and Kulasekhara. Among these, Kulasekhara was successful in re-assessing his own creative work with a critical perspective and recreating the ‘dhwani patha’ (subtext) by supplementing the non-sound areas of the text with interpretative action. In the prayoga of Natyasastra, dhwani plays a pivotal role and Vyangya Vyakhya, no doubt is a great contribution to the evolution of theatre traditions of India. This coupled with Rasa provides the uniqueness of India’s contributions in performing arts in comparison with those of the west.
N P Unni
Kerala has produced many entertainments of very high antiquity. Samghakkali, Kuttu, Krishnattam, Mutiyettu, Kathakali, Tira, Tullal etc. are some of the popular forms. The most ancient and the most important among them is Kutiyattam.
Kutiyattam is perhaps the earliest known form of enacting Sanskrit drama in Kerala and it is different from other forms of dramatic representations known to have existed elsewhere. The very name is suggestive, for `kuti ’means together and `attam’ means acting and so the term yields the idea of acting together.
Nayasastra (NS) was compiled to set models and standards for the performers and playwrights. Being akaragrantha – the sourcebook -- as well as the most voluminous authentic ancient text on the art of drama, it naturally cast an everlasting impact on Indian theatric traditions including the regional traditions of performance. The philosophy and vision for theatre spelled out by the NS have percolated so deeply in forms of dance and drama in India that despite all the geographical, social and anthropological differences, this single unique text of Bharatamuni has paved the way for the sustenance of and synchronization between diverse regional theatric traditions of India. The tenets of NS in some way or other are reflected in the regional theatreforms like