Songs & dialogues
Songs are the backbone of a Kattaikkuttu performance. While most other South Indian theatre forms use a background singer, Kattaikkuttu players have to be able to sing, speak and act themselves. An actor-singer (munnani) is supported by a chorus (pinnani), which stands centre back stage behind the musicians and consists of actors who are not required on stage at that moment. In addition to songs, Kattaikkuttu performances have a lot of spoken discourse (vacanam). A discourse is often based on a preceding song. It interprets and elaborates the meaning of the song text in simpler language. A Kattaikkuttu student learns how to build such elaborate verbal expositions during his or her training.
Based on these rhythms, Kattaikkuttu performers use dance steps (adavus), dance patterns and simple choreographies. Heroes, sages and female characters are each characterized by a typical, often stereotyped body language.
Music & dance
Kattaikkuttu music is based on the South Indian system of Carnatic music. However, rhythmic patterns and melodies are performed to fit the dramatic requirements of the theatre and its open-air performances.
The ensemble includes both a melody section and a rhythmical section. Accompanying the players, it consists of a peddle-harmonium, mrdangam and dholak (two kind of drums), a mukavinai (a small oboe-like instrument) and two sets of hand cymbals. The musicians are seated on a bench or elevated platform back-centre stage.
The harmonium has bellows which are operated by the player's feet. For easy transport it can be folded into a wooden box.
The mukavinai is a high-pitched double-reed wind instrument. It is the little brother of the nadaswaram, which is played on auspicious occasions, such as marriages and temple festivals.
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