Angika Abhinaya of Expression of the limbs
Angika Abhinaya encompasses the art of expressing emotions through bodily movements. The essence of Angika Abhinaya lies in the portrayal of emotions through bodily movements, particularly through the angas or limbs, which include facial expressions. It involves the intricate coordination of various angas, including the head, hands, waist, and face. Pratyangas, such as the shoulders, arms, thighs, knees, and elbows, along with upangas like the eyes, eyelids, cheeks, nose, lips, and teeth, contribute to the richness of expression. Hand gestures, known as hastas, hold great significance in conveying emotions and thoughts. Many of these gestures are innate to humanity and easily comprehensible.
Different schools of Abhinaya showcase a wide spectrum of expressions, ranging from the exaggerated to the subtle, from the raw to the refined. Angika Abhinaya can take the form of either Padartha Abhinaya or Vaakyartha Abhinaya. In Padartha Abhinaya, the artist delineates each word of the lyrics through gestures and expressions. Vaakyartha Abhinaya, on the other hand, involves the dancer enacting an entire stanza or sentence, conveying its meaning through movement and expression.
Vachika Abhinaya or Expression of Speech
Vachika Abhinaya pertains to the expression conveyed through speech. It plays a prominent role in drama, where dialogue is used as a medium of expression. Similarly, in musical performances, singers utilize speech to convey emotions through their singing. In certain Indian classical dance styles like Kuchipudi and Melattur Bharatanatyam, dancers often synchronize their lip movements with the lyrics of the songs, enhancing the padartha abhinaya (expression of the meaning). Kerala is known for its stage art forms, such as Koodiyattam, Nangyar Kooothu, Ottan, Seetangan, Parayan, Mudiyettu, and the three types of Thullal, where Vachika Abhinaya holds a significant position.
Aharya Abhinaya or Expression through Costume and Stage
Aharya Abhinaya encompasses the use of costumes and physical adornments to enhance the representation of a play. These elements play a crucial role in creating a visual appeal and establishing a connection between the audience and the performers. The stage decorations, including lighting and scene-related accessories, contribute to the overall ambiance, enriching the emotional experience shared by the audience and artists.
In both dramas and dance dramas, costumes and makeup distinguish characters based on factors such as gender, race, sect, class, or social status, adding an element of realism to the production. The stage decorations, which encompass lighting, props, and accessories, directly contribute to the scene's depiction and further enhance the emotional resonance between the audience and the artists.
For instance, in Kathakali, distinctive costumes and makeup are employed to portray different characters. The virtuous characters are adorned with green makeup, while the demons don the Kati vesham, characterized by a red-painted nose. However, in solo dance performances, Aharya Abhinaya is conventionally followed, focusing on the costume and adornment of the dancer to enhance the visual presentation.
Sattvika Abhinaya or True Expressions
Sattvika Abhinaya involves the profound communication of mental messages, emotions, and images from the performer's innermost being to the audience. According to Bharatha Muni in Natyashastra, sattva originates in the mind. However, it is important to note that Sattvika Abhinaya should not be confused with facial expressions, which fall under Angika Abhinaya. This form of expression focuses on conveying mental messages, emotions, or images through the eyes. The dancer or actor must draw upon their own authentic experiences, allowing them to captivate the audience's attention and evoke an empathetic response.
This human activity, traditionally categorized as pertaining to the mind, voice, and body, requires the artist to delve deep within and bring forth authentic emotions that resonate with the spectators. By doing so, they establish a connection that transcends mere performance and invites the audience to partake in a profound and shared experience.
Lokadharmi Abhinaya and Natyadharmi Abhinaya
Lokadharmi and Natyadharmi are two distinct forms of expression or Abhinaya as defined in the Natya Shastra. Natyadharmi refers to the theatrical-oriented approach, while Lokadharmi is rooted in the portrayal of everyday life. These divisions highlight the contrast between stylized and realistic modes of expression.
Natyadharmi Abhinaya is characterized by its poetic and stylized nature, adhering to codified techniques of presenting emotions and expressions on stage. It involves a deliberate departure from natural life, as it takes elements from reality and presents them in a suitably stylized manner. This form of expression is often seen as more artistically refined due to its heightened aesthetic appeal. However, it also requires skill and interpretation, as the possibilities for conveying emotions and poetic lines are endless.
Lokadharmi Abhinaya emphasizes a realistic and un-stylized portrayal, drawing inspiration from the daily activities of people. It is not bound by prescribed gestures or movements, as in the case of stylized acting. Instead, it incorporates its own methods of exaggeration, emphasis, improvisation, and playfulness, which are inherently non-realistic. Lokadharmi Abhinaya captures the essence of everyday life and resonates with a sense of authenticity.