Adishakti Laboratory for Theatre Art Research

Arts Collaboration

Grant Period: Over one year

Theatre director Veenapani Chawla established Adishakti, a theatre company, in 1983. To enable the actor to achieve an enlarged presence on stage, the Adishakti team has been exploring traditional Indian performance forms, which have a well-developed praxis for physical, vocal, and psychological expression.

To advance their research on actor-training methods, the Adishakti team now recognises the need to collaborate with an exponent of Koodiyuttam, the classical theatre form of Kerala. Close observation of Koodiyuttam performers has revealed that their intense depiction of emotions relies on particular breathing techniques and body stances. To develop a series of exercises based on this principle, the Adishakti team have invited Usha Nangiar, a Nangiar Koothu performer, to work with them. Nangiar Koothu is an enactment of stories from the life of Krishna incorpo­rated within a larger Koodiyuttam performance.

This grant will enable the Adishakti team and Usha Nangiar to undertake an exploration of the relationship of breath, energy centres, psychological centres and the resonators to performative expression in Koodiyuttam, and develop exercises for the all-round development of the contemporary actor. In addition, their aim is to explore how the language of Koodiyuttam and the content of Nangiar Koothu can be made more contemporary and accessible.

Based on these explorations into the form and content of Koodiyuttam and Nangiar Koothu, the team will work towards two contemporary productions. The interaction will unveil the underlying principles of Koodiyuttam even for Usha Nangiar, enabling her to make conscious use of her craft.

The project is also expected to open up the craft of jodiyuttum to representatives of other performance traditions. The Adishakti team will undertake video recordings of the work process at different stages. The aim is to create a record of the process of learning Koodiyuttam and developing exercises and improvisations based on its techniques and principles. The recordings will also facilitate the actors to review their own work and reflect on the possibilities for further development.

The productions will be staged in Madras and Pondicherry. The Adishakti team plan to conduct workshops with interested theatre artists, and undertake a nationwide tour of the two productions, to disseminate the results of the project.

Collaborators: Usha Nangiar, Nangiar Koothu performer, Trichur and Vinay Kumar, actor, Pondicherry