The percussionist uses the top side of the standing mrdangam as well as the left side (itandal) and right (valandal) side of the lying dholak to produce a variety of sounds, depending on the requirements of the dramatic scenes being acted. The right hand side of the dholak has an additional feature, called "kucci"-a small stick that produces a staccato sound and that is being used, in particular, to musically illustrate comedy scenes.
The medium sized hand cymbals are made of bronze (venkalam) and have to be in tune with the Kattaikkuttu ensemble. Ragas (melodies) are selected to highlight the dramatic content of the theatre. Kattaikkuttu in particular emphasizes heroic valour and tragedy as the result of separation and violent death on the battlefield. Ragas typically used are nattai, mohanam, muhari, danyasi, kambhodi, kalyani, arikambhodi, ketarakaulam, bhairavi, sankarabharanam, bhupalam. Kattaikkuttu uses five different rhythms (also called talam): adi, ata, rupakam, tirupatai and jambai, in addition to orati. The hand cymbals provide rhythmical embellishments, which in some styles are also reproduced by the melodic side, in particular the mukavinai. The rhythm sections can increase the frequency of the beats within a talam cycle from the first to the fifth tempo to match the dance movements of an actor. The characteristic tullal (jumps) and kirikkis (pirouettes) of heroic kattai characters can be executed only to the fast(est), fourth and fifth, tempo.
Costumes & make-up
Highlighting the supernatural nature of the mythological characters, costumes of the kattai characters are elaborate, vibrant and impressive. The basic colour of the mask-like make-up, the colour intensity and the designs covering the basic make-up define the personality of the characters. Contrasting with the ornate costumes of the male characters, the costumes and make-up of the female characters are rather plain and diminutive. During the last twenty years the Kattaikkuttu Sangam has initiated changes in the costumes and ornamentation of the female characters and in the design and materials used for the costumes of the male characters.
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