G. Venu is a performer, teacher and scholar of Kutiyattam and a senior disciple of Guru Ammannur Madhava Chakyar. He has devised 'Navarasa Sadhana' module as a transformative process for artistes seeking a deeper insight to the depths and diversity of human emotions. He is Chairman, Natanakairali, Ammannur Chakyar Madhom in Irinjalakuda.
I came across this extremely interesting and informative article by Shri G. Venu on Navarasa Sadhana in Narthaki.com the dance website of Dr. Anita Ratnam. These workshops are conducted by G. Venu, the veteran Kathakali and Kudiyattam artiste and revivalist of Natanakairali, Irinjnalakuda (Kerala) has the theatre world by storm.
The article contains the process of teaching the acting methodology for actors and dancers. Famous actors from cinema and theatre have benefitted from this workshop.
Venu ji has dived in the deep waters of the ocean of abhinaya and found some pearls of wisdom of Bharata’s Natya Sastra. It is an amazing read and I earnestly urge all dancers to read this article. Here is the link. http://www.narthaki.com/info/articles/art436.html
Way back in 1995, I met him for the first time in an 8-day workshop by Rajeev Sethi and performance organized by N.C.P.A. and its dynamic Director, Vijaya Mehta. I knew about his exhaustive work to revive Kudiyattam and other dying arts of Kerala. I spoke to him about my association with Bhagavata Mela and sought his guidance. The legendary Ammanur Madhava Chakyar was also present.
In 2000, I received an invitation from his institution to participate in a two-month residency workshop on Netra and Hasta Abhinaya. At that time, I was already in the process of bringing Melattur and Mumbai together for the Marathi natakam Sakuntala.
Those two months were educative and opened the horizons of what theatre and dance could achieve. The intensive eye exercises, meeting international artistes like Peter Oskarson besides artistes from China and Japan, infused new meaning into my life as a dancer.
With G. Venu, Niramala Paniker, Tomoe Irino , and Kapila. Kneeling L-R Reiko Irino, Arabella Lyons and flautist Ludwig Pesch at the workshop (2001)
I met his brilliant daughter Kapila whose Nangiar Koothu performances are exquisite and unforgettable. Every single nuance of abhinaya is performed with clarity through her eyes but seated on a wooden stool. She had undergone intensive training from the Guru Ammanur Madhava Chakyar which included exhaustive sessions of eye exercises and memorizing volumes of learning Sanskrit texts.
Ms. Tomoe Irino, a Japanese percussion artiste, also trained regularly in Nangiar Koothu. Here is a report of the workshop and its content written after the workshop in 2001.
Unique International Acting Laboratory
Natana Kairali of Irinjalakuda (Thrissur, Kerala) celebrated its silver jubilee year in 2001 with the inauguration of a unique concept -the 'Abhinayakalari'. Japan Foundation with Sanskriti Pravah as its executive agency supports the international Acting Laboratory, first of its kind in India. The Abhinayakalari was inaugurated in September 2000 and the first two- month long workshop on Netra-Abhinaya and Hasta Abhinaya was conducted in December. This project was launched at Natanakairali in association with the Ammannur Chachu Chakyar Smaraka Gurukulam.
The workshop is the brainchild of G.Venu, Director of Natana Kairali. Venu's research in Kerala's lost arts like puppets, Kutiyattam and Nangiar Koothu has resulted in their glorious revival and has created an international demand for them. His wife, Nirmala Paniker, was going back to the roots of Mohiniyattom when she discovered its close affinity to Nangiar Koothu. For over a decade, she collaborated with Ammannur Madhava Chakyar, the legendary Kutiyattam actor, to reconstruct the lost repertoire of Nangiar Koothu. The immense histrionic potential of these two arts is based on the use of eyes and elaborate hand gestures. The workshop focused on a holistic approach to juxtapose pan- Asian concepts of abhinaya. The dancer-participants and resource masters were selected from all over India and countries like Taiwan, Korea and Japan. The strenuous working schedule began at 7.30 am with Yoga lessons from Swami Hari Om Ananda of UttarKashi. The participants were then introduced to lessons in Kutiyattam (Ammannur Kuttan Asan), Kathakali (Sadanam Krishnan Kutty) Mohiniyattom (Nirmala Paniker) Bharata Natyam (Indu Raman), Le Coq dance Technique (Arabella Lyons), Dun Huang (Jessie Fan Ko) and Kamigata Mai (Keiin Yoshimura). Documentation of eye movement and hand gestures has now enabled the project to enlarge the vocabulary of dance. G. Venu conducted the master classes in eye exercise in front of an oil lamp and with application of ghee in and around the eyes. Senior Kathakali actors like Ananda Sivaram, V.P.Ramakrishna Nair, and Keezhpadam Kumaran Asan spoke extensively about their experiences and shared insights into the traditional eye care and exercise routines. These veterans discussed the Navarasas and their presentation at length. Octogenarian Ammannur Madhava Chakyar elaborated on Shringara Rasa with demonstrations and splendid performances of rare items from the Kutiyattam repertoire. The participants were taken to visit the Tantra Vidya Peetham near Alwaye where K.P.C. Bhattadripad spoke and demonstrated the use of mudras in tantra practice. A bit of history was introduced by Dr. K.G. Paulose who clarified the process of how Natya became "Attam" in Kerala. The Hindustan Kalari Sangam gave demonstrations of Kalari. The project Director, G.Venu's vision in planning this workshop was greatly appreciated by visiting payattu and the special oil massage for the face. The most illuminating lectures on Tantra as practiced by them came from this group. In a simplified manner, they explained the SriChakra and its equivalents and significance with relation to our body.
Dignitaries Tadishi Ogawa and Reiko Irino (Japan), Peter Oskarson (Sweden) Padma Subramanian, Ludwig Pesch, and Vasundhara Doraiswamy. A team from Folkteatern i Gavleborg (Sweden) who are working on the production of a Greek play was invited to study the ancient Sanskrit theatre traditions in India. They were present for the annual festival of Kutiyattam and Nangiar Koothu that took place at the beautiful NatanaKairali auditorium from Dec 1 to 14th. The young dancers of this tradition, Renjith, Rajneesh, Sooraj, Kapila, Aparna, Rajeev and Hari won the admiration of all for their devotion, dedication and performance of an exceedingly demanding tradition. They were also completely in charge of the arrangements of the workshop. In addition to this extravaganza, Venu had invited troupes to perform Pavakoothu (hand Puppets), Tolpavakoothu (Leather shadow puppets who perform Kamba Ramayana) Mudiyettam, Theyyam and Kummatikali (masked dancers). The beauty of the Natankairali campus, the generous and warm hospitality of the hosts and the excellent vegetarian Kerala cuisine made this an unforgettable and wonderful experience for the participants.