Two-way-street

March 29, 2017 § Leave a comment


‘Rasa’ in Indian poetics, is an aesthetic experience of a reader or viewer, or listener as her/his reponse to any work of art. The creator of such an artistic work should have experienced such a sentiment to share it with the receiver. As such, it is a two-way street with mutual participation of the artist and his reciprocating audience.
The theatre is the best illustration for such an experience. The earliest scientific treatment of this concept is found both in Natyasastra and Tolkappiyam both belonging to ,presumably, the 5th century CE. Whereas in Tolkappiyam, theatre is one of the artistic disciplines that is being discussed as a literary format, in Natyasastra, it receives full dedicated attention as a performing art.
The rasa is not a spontaneous revelation ,like a spiritual awakening occurring to religious mystics, as what is being claimed by them, but a gradual process of sensory and mental peception by which a responsive spectator gets transported from the plane of visible and mundane reality to the higher realms of pure, aesthetic emotion for its own sake.
These sentiments have also been enumerated by the author of Natyasastra. They are ,namely, rati (love), hasa (mirth), soka (sorrow),krodha (anger), utsaha (valour)bhaya (fear),jugupsa(disgust),and vismaya (marvel).
In Tolkappiyam the theory of rasa is classified under the category ‘Meypaatiyal’(physical gestures, or rather the physical manifestations of the emotions that are felt inwardly) and this is in the context of the theme of love, otherwise known as ‘Akam’.
‘Rasa’ is from the etymological root ‘ras’, which means ‘to taste’ , ‘to enjoy’) and in Tamil its synonym is ‘suvai’ (‘to taste’ ‘to enjoy’).
Tolkappiyam , even at the beginning clearly spells out that ‘among the thirty two varieties of sentiments aroused by the the varipous kinds of entertainment provided to the people, theatre is one among them, which evokes physical expressions of eight basic emotions’.
They are namely ‘ nagai’ (laughter), ‘azhugai’ (weeping), ‘ilivaral” ( humiliation), ‘ marutkai’ ( wonder) ‘achcham’ ( fear) , ‘perumidham’ (to feel proud), ‘veguli’ ( anger). They are, more or less the same as in Natyasatra except the Tamil grammatical manual projects the as physical demonstration of the eight basic emotions.
Maybe, Tolkappiyam lays stress on comedy as the foremost aspect of theatre that it mentions ‘laughter’ as the primary sentiment. In Natyasastra it is ‘ love’. Thematically, ‘love’ and ‘ laughter’ are first cousins, if one knows her/ his Shakespeare.
‘Seyirriyam’ appears to be a long-vanished Tamil dramatic manual ,from which, the commentators of Tamil literary ( ‘Silappadikaam’) and grammatical (Tolkappiyam) works give a few quotations to illustrate their point of view.
According to this work that is now extinct, Perasiriyar, the commentator of Tolkappiyam says that when one talks of sentiments (‘ suvai’) he has to have in mind that this experience of sentiment is inclusive in the sense that one who narrates and the one to whom it is narrated should be in the same wave-length of emotional experience. This applies to all categories of art. There cannot be a better definion of ‘ras’ than this.
Perhaps, the eminent musician T.M. Krishna has this in mind when he speaks of the silent aesthetic communication between the performer and his audience, which is possible, only if both of them are in the same emotional wave-length ,when the artist is performing. In the Indian artistic tradition that includes literature, a critic, in the western sense of the term , belongs to an unknown species of creation.
T he author of Natyasastra recognized only eight dominant emotions but later theorists admitted a ninth sentiment called ‘santa’ (serenity) with ‘sama’ (tranqulity) as its performing state. It is ,perhaps, ‘navarasa’ was prescribed for poetry, the later grammarians might have thought this should also apply to theatre. Absence of any sentiment is tranquility, which is, the supreme state of ‘Nirvana’ (Liberation). But how can this bephysically demonstrated on the stage and how can one make a spectator experience the same non-emotional state, if ‘rasa’ is a two way street?
Following this Sanskritic tradition, Perasiriyar, the commentator for Tolkappiyam talks of ‘ Naduvu Nilai’, as the ninth sentiment expressed in a play. One is not sure, whether he means this is required for an actor to demonstrate, in which case it would mean ‘ alienation’, which the German playwright-director Brecht advocated. Perassiriyar says that the actor should keep his persona distant from the role he demonstrates on the stage, which is the sum and substance of Brecht’s theory of acting.

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