Heike Moser: Kūṭiyāṭṭam on the Move: From Temple Theatres to Festival Stages
Kūṭiyāṭṭam, Kerala’s traditional Sanskrit theatre, was down to the 1950’s exclusively performed in prosperous high-caste temples as a kind of ritual theatre. Only Brahmins and nobles were allowed to watch a performance. Nowadays pupils from other castes, even foreigners, are learning and presenting Kūṭiyāṭṭam; performances can be watched on secular stages all over the world, even on YouTube. Since it was awarded the title “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by the UNESCO in 2001, Kūṭiyāṭṭam has become part of the growing festival-culture worldwide.
How does a traditional theatre form like Kūṭiyāṭṭām respond to the shift of exterior and interior factors in such a short period of time? How does it react to shifts in socio-economic and cultural conditions, to performers coming from other backgrounds and performances in new public spheres? How does a “modern” Kūṭiyāṭṭam-performance function, when the focus shifted from ritualistic elements towards a theatre of high aesthetics and strong emotions? Are Kūṭiyāṭṭam-festivals, which are lasting for several days, the only possibility to survive for the elaborate enactment of a play? What effect has the increasing use of new media, specially the video recording of performances? Do these tapes and DVDs reform knowledge of and about Kūṭiyāṭṭam?