Koodiyattom , literally, dancing together is the Sanskrit theatre of Kerala which is believed to have originated two millenia ago.The plays are in Sanskrit with the Chakyars performing the male roles and Nangiars ( women of the Nambiar community) performing the female roles.The Vidushaka or clown recities the Malayalam traslation for the benefit of the audience.Manipravalam, a mixture of Sanskrit and Malayalam language owes its origin to Koodiyattom.
The performance of Koodiyattom was codified in ancient times through elaborate stage manuals called Attaprakarams and Kramadeepikas.The theatric action is based on these choreogaraphic texts which contain all the logistic, organisational and theatric aspects of Koodiyattom.
The plays in Koodiyattom have minimal text giving room for the actor to improvise and elaborate imaginatively.Single acts from Sanskrit plays are chosen.The actor has the freedom to creatively interpret the role in a play.Theatre improvisation is effected thourough several methods including the use of orchestra to enchance histronic action and the deliberate amplification of events and sequences through a technique called Pakarnattom.
Abbinya (expression) through angika( movements of the body), vachika( spoken word), aharya (make-up and costume) as well as satvika(creation and projection of moods and sentiments) are conspicous in Koodiyattom.Make up patterns and constumes of Koodiyattom are believed to be the forerunners of the Kathakali costume.
The amin audience for Koodiyattam for the past three decades has been the ordinary people, irrespective of caste or creed.Audiences out side Kerala have accepted Koodiyattom whole heartedky as they approach it without any pre-conceived notions.When declared recently as “ a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity”, this art form attracted attention the world over.
The Department of Culture of the Government of India and UNESCO have also intiated projects to conserve Koodiyattam.Though not many young people are active in Koodiyattam today,most of them have genuine dexerity and get solid training.Only through a conservation effort that brings together training , performance opportunities, research and innovations , can an ancient art form like Koodiyattom survive. In these matters, the valuable advice of those who have practical experience in the theatre has to be accepted to envisage and implement programmes.
In olden days this art form was a means of livelihood, and as such was, for many families, only an adiyinthiram (annual routine) to be performed on special occasions.For those who have taken up Koodiyattam today, it is no longer the context of those who sustained it earlier that defines the tradition.As it has come out of the temple, confining Koodiyattam to orthodoxy cannot diminish its artistic value and aesthetic potential.Ways have to be found to enable growth while preserving all the aesthetic value enshrined in Koodiyattom.Arrangements should to made to nurture young people who are genuinely interested and responsive, and those who make Koodiyatttam their profession should be encouraged.through such endeavours this theatre must be activelu conserved.