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  • APPENDIX I

    INTERVIEWS

    THEYYAM

    AI-1.0 Interview with A.K. Nambiar, School of Drama, Thrissur

    29-11-1993.

    AI-1.1 Please explain the social relevance of the myths

    behind the different Theyyams. Are they in the form

    of different protests by the down-trodden?

    Different Theyyams represent different staycs of worship

    by man. There had been animal worship, snake worship, hero

    worship, goddess in ancient times. The changes that occurred

    in the forms of worship, helped in the evolution of this ritual performing art. Many Theyyams like 'Pottan', 'Makkappothi',

    'Muchilott Bhagavathy' etc. are in the form of protests. Some

    of them like 'Raktachamundi', 'Pallott Devi' etc. have relation

    with 'Kali' worship with local variations.

    AI-1.2 How is the training in Theyyam received by the

    performer? Is it formal or traditional?

    Generally, there is no formal training in Theyyam, as

    that in other ritual performing arts. The Theyyam-artiste

    learns it through observation and imitation while accompanying . the elders during the performances. But in some Theyyams,

    special steps like that in 'Kalari ' are learned formally. Before the performance, strict 'Vritha' from 3 to 41 days

    should be observed by the performer. The period of 'Vritha'

    depends upon the nature of Theyyams. The Theyyam-artistes

    usually belong to certain sections of the low castes dike

    'Pulaya', 'Malaya' 'Vannan', 'Paraya', 'Urali' etc.

  • AI-1-3 How is the belief of the performer in hem', what is

    the difference with the actor in a Theatre?

    Usually in Theyyams, only believers are the performers.

    Even if he is a non-believer, when he actually performs

    Theyyarn, he will have that aspect of belief in him. Theyyarn is

    a ritual art, and if the element of belief is not there, it

    will degrade in to a farce.

    In theatre, the belief of the actor is self-confidence

    (Stanislavski). Here it is make-belief, making the audience

    believe that he is the character.

    The self-confidence in Theyyam-artisteis acquired through his

    belief in God or religion. It is social as well as

    psychological. He has to suspend hisown self atleast for the

    time of performance and wear a robe of belief.

    During performance, they go into trance, some are

    pretending that they are in trance. It is a trance related with

    religious belief*- (-not as in the actor in a theatre).

    Even a performer who enacts a secular Theyyam will have

    the element of belief. There is no Theyyam, which are not

    connected with religions or beliefs.

  • AI-1.4 Can we connect some Thevvams to the Theatre or cruelty

    of Artaud?

    The intensity and the fierceness of performance along

    with the high spectacular aspects of Theyyam can be connected

    with Theatre of cruelty. In 'Pottan- Theyyam', 'Ottakkolan

    Theyyam', 'Ummattikkuliyan Theyyam', there are the elements of

    'Manthravada'. There is the fierce performance of 'Uchabali;

    inf lictuon of self -suf f ering .by cutting the hands and pouring

    blood, which is very well akin to theatre of cruelty , It must be remembered here that Artaud derived his ideas of the

    Theatre of cruelty from the Balinese theatre.

    A1-1.5 How much time is needed for preparation before

    presentation?

    Usually about four hours are needed for the preparation

    and eight to twelve hours for the performance. (With 'the

    costumes already ready). Theyyam have connection with the

    timings (Eg. Karimkuttichathan is performed in the early hours

    of the morning, Vishnwnoorthi during day time, Theechamundi is

    during night). In this respect, theatre does not observe this.

  • AI-1.6 What about the audience? Their belief? Their

    participation? etc. Do they communicate with the

    performers?

    The audience in Theyyam are usually believers. But there

    are people who regard Theyyam completly as a visual art .- But traditionally the audience are believers and they come for

    participation. When Theyyam was performed, fomerly the audience

    had their own separate positions. But now that division has

    gone.

    The audience are always communicating with the

    performers from the beginning to the endwvocal communication is

    also there between the performer and the audience.

    A1-1-7 What is your opinion about taking Theyyam out side the

    traditional performing spaces like 'Kavu' or 'temple'

    etc? In this case is it moving towards theatre?

    When a ritual is taken outside its traditional

    performing spaces, it will have its own limitations as a ritual

    performance.

  • There are justifications for taking Theyyams outside.

    One is, to draw the attention of the outside world to such a

    rich performing art. We have taken this is to Russia, Germany

    and France. But what we did there was to create an artificial

    ritual atmosphere there for a complete communication of

    Theyyam. In the festival of India, Theyyam was presented over

    the side of Sen river. I made use of the nature's

    background, the steps towards the river, for the presentation

    which was much appreciated.

    When we take the art outside, the art as well as the

    artists are known outside. ,. We highlighted the spectacular

    aspects there .- We brought out the limitations of the proscenium there.

    It is true that in highlighting the spectacular aspects

    of Theyyam, the believing aspect as well as the ritual aspect

    are lessened. And it moves more towards . theatre than . ritual. But that is the need of the day.

    AI-1-8 What about the costumes and deep colours used in

    Theyvam? How is it related with Theatre?

    The deep colours used in Theyyams express the eternal

  • f bhavas' of the goddesses. Deepred colour is used in Thnyy_am

    which is connected with blood. The design of the costume, as a

    whole, expresses the fierceness haudrabhav;) of the art.

    Colours would be mixed, usually 'Chayilyam' is used. In

    'Muchilott Bhagavathi', a minute design is given on the face.

    The peculiarities of the goddesses are expressed through these

    portrayals. There would be different Theyyam belonging to the

    same category, There will have different portrayal.

    The 'Mudi' of Theyyams vary from one feet to 30 feet

    This is to establish 'bhavas' that are unworldly . . The ivludi' of 'Muchilott-Bhagavati and Vishnumoorthy is very small.

    AI-1-9 Music - The musical instruments like 'Chenda', 'Elathalam',

    'Cheenikkuzhal', 'Kurumkuzhal', 'Cheriya maddalam' are used,

    These instruments have connection with tribal culture. But we

    cannot say that Theyyam is a refinement of tribal arts. In both

    we can see goddesses of agriculture. There are Tribal Theyvams.

    AI-1-10 Theatrical elements in T h e g y a w .

    Some of the Theyyams are rich in Theatrical elements,

  • like 'Muchilott- Bhaqhavati', 'Makkapothy' 'Daivathar' . . The actions are so mo delled so as to communicate the rituals more

    powerfully.

    There are comic characters as in 'Mudiyettu' or

    'Padayani. , Kuttitheyyams and 'Bhootha theyyam' as '~oolies 'in < 4

    Mudiyettu . The dialogues of Boothas are full of comic elements. They are full of fun as well as thought. But we

    cannot take this as a general rule in Theyyams.

    AI-1.11 Ritual props used.

    '~eedom'is an essential object in The~~ams, some of the important

    scenes in Theyyams are performed sitting on the 'peedom: In r Karimkuttichathan, a dance performance is given standing on the

    peedom'. This is called 'Peedakalasam'. Some rituals are

    conducted towards 'Peedom' . This will b e done at the begi$,ing 'as well as at the and of the performance.

    The Theyyam may listen to the complaints of the people

    sitting on the'peedom'or standing.

    The use of 'Yavanika' is very rare in Theyyams. In

    certain T,heyyam~, just before the performance, '~avaniki may be

  • held. There it has got a theatrical function.

    (As in 'Padayani., the darkness is also acting as

    '~avanika' here. Just before the coming of Theyyam 'Vadyamelal

    will be there.)

    Usually songs are sung by the 'Thottakaran'. In certain

    Thevvams, Theyyam also sings.

    AI-1.12 How are the movements of Theyyam? Are the steps varied?

    Are they taking liberty during performance?

    Each Theyyam - has itsown movement pattern. These

    patterns have their own variations -. These fixed patterns are

    not at all broken by the performers usually. They may vary the

    rhythm but not the basic patterns. The variations are directed

    by thervaddyakar: or the Theyyam itself direct the rhythm. Here

    he takes liberty.

    The performer, moves in a fixed score generally. There

    is limited possibility for improvisations. No new steps are

    introduced, they are confined within the traditional steps

    (Here there is no rehearsal, as in the theatre . In theatre there is no fixed - scores ) . The performer is supposed not to break the score or rituals in Thevy