An article by Balendu
Mudiyettu may well be considered older than all other existing theatre forms of our country. It is definitely older than Koodiyattam, as the dramatic concept is much cruder and folklorish. Moreover, it belongs to the period when worship was conducted in "Kavu" (grove), for temples were yet unknown in these parts of the country. Worship of nature as mother was a salient feature of our culture and no wonder this is evident in most of our ritualistic art forms. There are few distinguishing features of Mudiyettu, which highlight its ritualistic nature. The absence of a restricted and designated stage ensures the viewers' involvement, which is an essential aspect of Mudiyettu. The near total absence of Hasthamudras (Hand gestures) perhaps the most important element of acting in Kathakali, Koodiyattam and the like is a clue to its ancestry. The theme of the performance is the well known story of the incarnation of Bhadrakali as the compilation of the positive forces of the universe and as the sum total of the strength of all the gods. It was essential as the adversary was the concentration of all that are evil, viz., ferocity, oppression and disease. Mudiyettu has succeeded in presenting both these adversaries in their full glory through well composed flowing movements in unison with awe inspiring performance by percussionists, the like of which can be witnessed only in Kerala. Mudiyettu was considered the ultimate remedy against the most dreaded epidemic, Small Pox. Still, popular belief is strong as is indicated by the rush of devotees wanting the blessing of the actor performing as Kali. Blessing of the entire village by him at the end of the performance is an essential part of the performance. There are few mandatory rituals needed to be performed before Mudiyettu is performed at a venue. These include, Kalamezhuthu and Pattu and Kuruthi (Sacrifice). The former is to please the deity herself whereas the latter is intended for her Bhoothagana (the army of demons). There are many scenes in the performance like the Narada delivering the message to Lord Shiva the stress is on three important scenes namely, (i) Darikan's entry, (ii) Kali's entry and (iii) the fight. Perhaps the earliest existence of comic characters in Theatre can be found in Kooli and Koimpadar. The former, a representative of the demon warriors is a fore-runner of Bheeru in Kathakali, who tries to amuse the audience by crude extempore actions, while the latter relies more on subtle comments following a recognised script and behaves rather like the Vidooshaka of Sanskrit Theatre. However the real duty of these two during the performance is attending to the various chores related to the sequence and assisting the main performers, much like the buffoons of a circus. Facial Make-up and the headgear of Kali are classic examples of our rich tradition in sculpture and other handicrafts. Theeyattu can be considered a by-product of Mudiyettu, though many Theeyattu artists today tend to disagree. However, as indicated by rather well developed Abhinaya (Acting) using Hasthamudras (Hand gestures), Theeyattu is much younger to Mudiyettu, which in the pure form is absolutely without any gestural acting.