Monday, March 7, 2011


Long before I could understand the technicalities and complexities of Kathakali,  way before I could appreciate the various aspects of a performance, i was enamored by its myriad colours, costumes and make-up. All through my childhood, when the monthly Ernakulam Kathakali Club programmes were an inescapable part of my life, the most cherished part of the going for a performance was having a tour of the aniyara before the kali commenced.  I was always more interested in the goings-on backstage than what was being performed on stage. And while TDM Hall (where all Club performances were held) usually housed an elite crowd that raised eyebrows at kids running  around  and hushed them to be quiet, I made up for it at the temple performances, where I would run to the aniyara between scenes to see the Nalan or Karnan or Hanuman who had had us entranced for the last one hour dropping his divine aura the minute he stepped off stage and making a swift return to mundanity as removed his kireedam and fanned himself with his uttareeyam.

 The aniyara remains, to this day, a source of unending fascination, the unassumingly nondescript room where mere mortals turn into gods, demi-gods and damsels in distress. Everything in the aniyara still invokes a sense of awe- the performers huddled around a single naked bulb hanging low, appling outlandish hues of makeup made from completely organic substances; another performer taking a power nap while the chuttikkaran works on the labours over applying the perfect chutti, yet another veshakkaran sending a silent word of prayer to the heavens above as he puts on the final accessory to his costume- the kireedam.

Some shots of the aniyara from a kali held at the Koodalmanikyam Temple, Irinjalakuda last year: