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Digital Cultures Lab


workshop 1

Jayachandran Palazhy


An Integrated Information System on Indian Physical Expressions through Technology

Attakkalari completed the first phase of the research project Nagarika, an Integrated Information System on Indian Physical Expressions through Technology, as an endeavour to discover, document and preserve some of the rare knowledge systems in human physical expressions available in India, and make that information accessible through technology to young artists and choreographers. Nagarika is supported by Daniel Langlois foundation and Goethe Institute.

Attakkalari believes digital technology is a fantastic medium in this pursuit of archiving, disseminating and creating new knowledge in the realm of movement arts, especially in a country like India, where there are several performing arts and physical traditions still surviving. Each one of them is a repository of civilisational knowledge, yet this information is not readily accessible for a young artist who wants to work with it.

The project attempted to compile and categorize movement sequences of two specific Indian movement traditions - the Kalakshetra style of Bharatanatyam and the Northern Style of Kalarippayattu - and their historic, social and cultural contexts for the benefit of movement artists, scholars and the general public. Some of the focus areas include:

- Research into the context and some specific information on these forms

- Understanding of the principles that govern Bharatanatyam and Kalarippayattu such as the role of focus/gaze in augmenting the movement

- Categorisation of the information that is available within definite parameters

- Identification and collection of historical and contextual information

- Extensive video documentation (interviews with masters, chosen movement sequences etc.)

- Organise the information gathered on a DVD in an easily accessible format


The role of rhythm and spatial configuration as well as body positions and kinesthetic have been analyzed to understand the scope of connectivity of a particular movement in diverse contexts. Specific movement sequences were chosen for different aspects and were explored and documented from different angles with detailed explanation. We decided to select movement sequences that are typical of Kalakshetra style as well as Korvais that represent a change in choreographic ideas over the years, particularly employed by the chosen masters. Apart from Jatis, Korvais and Theermanams, which provide standard location for the Adavus, the resource team also looked at movements that are found in Charis, Meyyadavus and even Nritya contexts to fully explore the possibilities of movement articulations in Bharatanatyam.

A lot of work has been done in identifying and defining the principles that govern the movement vocabulary itself, resulting in the need to address concepts related to body centre, energy flow and intention of movement to understand its dynamics. Detailed analysis has been done in the area of Adavus or movements in Bharatanatyam to understand the principles behind the construction of the movements and how they are combined. The variations in the use of energy and the way it defines space have been examined. In addition, the team has researched the function of the different limbs in Bharatanatyam, their trajectories as defined by the form, the relationship between the centre and the limbs, the use of gaze and hand gestures and the use of breath.

Similarly in Kalarippayattu we were seeking answers to several questions from masters. Kalarippayattu is developed as a system of education in terms of physical training to create general body awareness and well being among the people at large and fine-tune the body for professional Kalarippayattu martial artist. It also inculcated positive attitude, mutual respect and a sense of honour among the populace. Weapons were treated as an extension of the body and combat was primarily to show one's physical prowess and mastery attained through training rather than using brute force to subdue an opponent. Therefore, a movement adopted in Kalari has more significance than mere physical action employed in combat. Our attempt was to decipher some of these aspects in terms of understanding Kalari movement and the principles governing them.


Given the importance of capturing and analyzing movements in the most authentic form, the Nagarika team-- both artistic and technical--has been put together with the best exponents of these forms.

Camerawork was directed by G.S. Bhaskar ISC, an acclaimed cinematographer and other camerapersons were B.R. Viswanath, R. Chandrashekhar, Ravikumar, Venkatesh Raju, V. Ashok, Barua and Basavaraj Kadur. Sound recordists were Hari Kumar, Arun Varma, Santhosh and Deepu. Nanda Kishore was our technical consultant. The information architecture, interactivity and digital design were provided by Christian Ziegler (Germany) and Kunihiko Matsuo (Japan), both internationally renowned digital artists. The post-production activities including programming, design execution and compositing were done at the Centre for Development of Imaging Technology (C-DiT), Thiruvananthapuram, a Government of Kerala undertaking.

Artists who took part in Nagarika are:



1. Leela Samson

2. Prof. C.V. Chandrashekhar

3. V.P. and Shantha Dhananjayan

Young artists

1. Unnikrishnan

2. Anusha Lall

3. Usha Vasanthkumar

4. Meena Raman

5. Sangeeta Ishwar

6. Ranjit

7. Chritra Dasharathi

8. Nithya Raman

9. Amrita

10. Indu Krishnan



1. Sathyanarayanan from CVN Kalari , Thiruvananthapuram

2. Vasudevan Gurukkal, Kaduthuruthy,Kerala

Young artists

1. P.Balakrishnan

2. Sashi Dharan

3. Dil Sagar

Research and co-direction : Anusha Lall

Project direction : Jayachandran Palazhy.



The end product emerging as a result of the research and documentation, would be two 3-hour DVDs, one dedicated to Bharatanatyam and another to Kalarippayattu. Each DVD will contain high quality images of the masters and young artists in action, detailed interviews, contextual information, analysis and explanation of principles of the movement language of the art forms.

The images have been shot from multiple angles in studio conditions, specially designed to allow for post-production graphics, animation and interactive navigational tools. This will give the viewer an authoritative and detailed account of the structure, principles and aesthetics of Bharatanatyam and Kalaripayattu. The interactivity is designed to provide the information in a customized and personalized format. Nagarika is the first such initiative in India in the field of traditional performing arts and is a must for students and connoisseurs of the arts.

The DVD on Bharatanatyam will be ready by September 2005. A work in progress edition exists already and we will be able to present the DVD along with a detailed account of the process and insights gained. The presentation requires a LCD projector of at least 3500 AnsiLumens.

These DVDs will be widely circulated in India and internationally amongst arts organizations, universities, dance institutions, practicing artists, students and the general public. There will be a public launch of the DVD in May 2005 and we have planned a series of lectures showcasing the DVD in academic institutes and dance schools internationally. Attakkalari is interested in opportunities to showcase the research work in an interactive session and would like to explore potential partners for continuing the reseach work. .

Workshop Libraries

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coordinated by Johannes Birringer (Nottingham)


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