It [Kathak] is a different art form, where there is more of abhinaya.
Kudiyattam plays, always based on classical Sanskrit texts, many of them composed in Kerala, invariably include a long nirvahanam or “retrospective” in which a character reveals, mostly by the silent language of hand- and eye-gestures, abhinaya, the long process that has brought him or her to the present moment in the play.
The possibility of presenting the subtle facial expressions and detailed mudras for which Mohiniattam is famous? "I can't jump around like a frog to show my energy," she quips, emphasising, "The methodology will change, but you can't destroy the soul." The mukhaja abhinaya, conveying expression using the face and eyes, for which she is known, she reserves for limited spaces.
Raja Srfoji II (1798-1832), the Maratha ruler of Thanjavur rendered a unique service to Bharata Natyam from a different angle. Thanjavur is considered to be the home of Bharta Natyam and the art was at its peak during his time...Serfoji wrote chain compositions in Marathi for use in dance dramas in the Bharata Natyam style and many of these padams and abhinaya padams are intended for choreography.
It is this stream of sringara that swells into the mighty river of the lover-beloved songs of the Vaishnava and Saiva saints, the Ashtapadi of Jayadeva and the compositions of Kshetragna. In Bharatanatyam, too when it comes to abhinaya, sringara has been the dominant mood.
We dance to ghazals (Urdu poems), thumris (a genre of semi-classical Indian music) and taranas (a type of Hindustani classical vocal music). There is also a spontaneity and subtle ‘abhinaya’ about Kathak. We usually dance to the syllables of tabla and pakhawaj hence there is a lot of intricate footwork,
Eyes play a very central role in the abhinaya in Koodiyattam. The eye training is very laborious and so is the process of putting on the eye make-up before the performance. We also use chundapoo , the ovary of a special flower, to put into the eye before the performance in order to make them bloodshot and strong.
The dance style is sensitive to the world, the musical note and the rhythmic beat. It treats the body in halves, with the lower part interpreting rhythms while the upper part moves around the arc and diagonal chords, to the melody. It has an abhinaya , or expressional tradition, that uses the body the face the micro-features and hand gestures in addition to costume to interpret the song, poem or the emotion.
The distinctive Sattriya abhinaya defies elitist leanings by depicting activities like fighting, eating, slaying, killing etc. which were frowned upon by the Sanskrit texts.