This clip is taken from the storytelling portion of a kathak solo. Here, Pandit Das performs two characters from the great Hindu epic the Ramayana: the story’s villain Ravan (or “King Ravana”) and the young princess Sita.
2003, ODC Theater, San Francisco.
Pandit Chitresh Das
Pandit Das as Ravan grows angry with Sita; his emotion is communicated through facial expression, hand gestures, and the sound of his footwork.
In this portion of the story, Ravan is disguised as a Brahmin ascetic, someone with great spiritual power. He (falsely) communicates this status by pointing several times to his chest, then pulls his hands apart from the center of the body with thumb and forefinger touching and hands quavering to depict the sacred white thread worn by Brahmin men.
Pandit Das pushes his still quavering right hand away from his mouth several times as Ravan aggressively threatens to curse Sita.
With a palta, or quick turn, Pandit Das changes characters to become Sita, who is shocked and frightened at the threat of a Brahmin’s curse.