Navarasa – Inside Out

A teenager is off to attend her first prom party. Before she gets in the car, wearing a lovely dress, she takes a moment to look at herself in the mirror.

  • Eyeliner – check
  • Eyeshadow – check
  • Lipstick – check
  • Blush – check
  • Makeup – check
  • The perfect smile – check

It is interesting how expressions enhance our appearance , sometimes even more than cosmetic makeup. All the varied emotions a person reflects on his face make up his personality- the perceived character of an individual. This simple idea forms the foundation of the movie Inside Out.

Did you know that it takes less than half the muscles to smile than to frown? A person uses her facial muscles to portray her feelings, spontaneous or artificial. The latter is used in entertainment and arts like acting, dancing, and mime, to name a few. Many Indian classical dance forms use different expressions to communicate to the audience. This medium of communication is language independent and understood by all. This body language is missing when we use verbal or written communication. Each person’s brain fills up these gaps in their own way.  In the dance terminology these are called the Navarasa or nine moods:

  1. Shantarasa – equanimity
  2. Hasyarasa – mirth
  3. Adbhutrasa – wonder
  4. Karunarasa – sadness
  5. Bhayanakrasa – fear
  6. Rudrarasa – anger
  7. Vibhatsyarasa – disgust
  8. Virrasa – pride
  9. Shringarrasa – love

In the movie, Inside Out, we see a similar though slightly different categorization.  Five feelings are identified : Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust. They color all our experiences and long-term memories. Among them, Joy and Sadness were the predominant emotions. When under stressful situations, these emotions are not freely expressed, then other emotions like fear, anger, and disgust come to the forefront. Interestingly, they did not include Love and Curiosity in the group of emotions. Anger was red while fear was purple. Disgust was green in color. Looking closely, it combined Vibhatsyarasa (disgust) and Virrasa (pride).

The only way to stop the negative feelings from taking control of her life was to express the true feelings or let the tears flow. Towards the end of the movie, we see mixed memories that were colored with joy and sadness simultaneously. This could be thought of as Shantarasa or a balanced emotion which is indeed part of maturing.

Joy was the dominant feeling for the growing child. As they said “a little baby is but a bundle of joy!” If we tried to find a parallel for Joy, we see not only Hasyarasa but also Shringarrasa with bits of Shantarasa and Adbhutrasa. Only here Shringarrasa was more of family love than romantic love. Since the protagonist was a child , growing into a pre-teen,  higher emotions like romantic love may not have formed in her brain in a well-defined way. That could be one of the reasons why Love was not depicted as a separate emotion in the movie.  In entertaining arts, however, Shringarrasa is the single most important mood. It is a complex emotion that includes many variations like jealousy, compassion, admiration and even erotic love. Some classical art forms often compare this love to spiritual or devotional love.

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