Veteran actors made each role of an excerpt from ‘Utharaaswayamvaram’ stand out with their captivating portrayals.
‘Utharaaswayamvaram’ (Uthara’s Wedding) is a favourite play of both connoisseurs and Kathakali buffs.
It has been recognised as the most suitable play for a whole-night performance.
The popularity of this play appears to rest on the following: it involves most of the characters in Kathakali, except kari (‘black beard’); embedded in it are technically demanding situations of acting, such as ekalochanam (literally, it means ‘one eye’! It refers to an extremely difficult feat requiring the actor to reflect anger in one eye and sadness in the other simultaneously); and the exquisite song ‘Veera viraata kumaara vibho...,’ the foremost among compositions for a special dance number called ‘Kummi’.
Recently Drisyavedi in Thiruvananthapuram staged the middle portion of the play beginning with the scene in which Utharan, the boastful young prince of Virata, dallies with beautiful women in the harem, while Duryodhana’s men hold the weak king captive and drive away the king’s cattle.
Utharan’s ridiculous endeavour to keep all his girl friends in good humour and beating his own trumpet, to the tune of equating himself with Arjuna, while consoling the cowherds who report to him the mischief done by the adversaries, were depicted effectively by Kalamandalam Harinarayanan.
Veteran actor Kalamandalam Balasubrahmanyan, donning the role of Brihannala (Arjuna in disguise), was, as usual, inimitable in capturing the attention of the rasikas throughout, through his elegant postures, movements, synchronisation of gestures with the music and orchestra and, above all, expressions reflecting the appropriate sentiment in consonance with the context.
Utharan’s gross overestimation of himself and thorough underestimation of Brihannala provided him with an array of opportunities to bring out the distinctive traits of both of them.
Margi Vijayakumar’s appearance as Malini, the queen’s beautician-cum-companion, enhanced the performance.
Senior actor Mathur Govindan Kutty’s decision to switch to male roles from female ones, in view of advancing age, appeared complete, when he made the character of Kripacharya unforgettable with just one padam which begins with the question ‘Oh! Karna! Who among archers will equal Arjuna?’
His slow warming-up prior to the main singer beginning the padam, elaboration one by one of all the miserable defeats Duryodhana had to encounter in all the ventures undertaken with the advice and assistance of Karna and consciously interspersing acting with realistic or lokadarmi features – all together assured him of a place centre stage in the scene featuring Duryodhana’s assembly.
Kalamandalam Babu Namputhiri, assisted by Nedumpilli Rammohan and Kalamandalam Jishnu Namputhiri, rendered the graceful songs and quatrains of Irayimman Thampi, embellishing almost every occasion with appropriate alapana and samgatis without sacrificing the clarity of the text.
Chenda, played by Kalamandalam Srikanth and Margi Venugopal, and maddalam by Margi Ravindran and Srikanteswaram Mohanachandran complemented each other and provided the necessary ambience for the performance.