A three-day event was organised at Kerala Kalamandalam in connection with the birth anniversary of Kalamandalam Padmanabhan Nair.

The birth anniversary of Kalamandalam Padmanabhan Nair was observed with a variety of programmes at Kerala Kalamandalam recently. The three-day celebrations included competitions in cholliyattam, concerts, dance recitals, Kathakali performances and lectures on Padmanabhan Nair. Son and disciple of legendary Kathakali guru Pattikkamthodi Ravunni Menon, Padmanabhan Nair was the Principal of Kalamandalam. He is also regarded as an authority in Kathakali acting methods, which he had set down in his book 'Cholliyattam.' This book is perhaps the one and only reference on present-day training in Kathakali.

Contest, concerts and plays

The celebrations began with the competition in Cholliyattam for students of Kalamandalam. The second day's cultural programmes started with a concert by former students of Kalamandalam and a Mohiniyattam performance by the students of the institution.

The main attraction of the festival was the staging of Kathakali plays on the second and third evening of the festival. Purappad, Melappadam and the second and third part of 'Uttraraswayamvaram' were performed on the second day. Two father-son teams came good in the Melappadam. Mattannur Sankarankutty and his son Sreeraj performed on the chenda while Cherpulassery Sivan and his son Hariharan played the maddalam. Vocals by Kottakkal Madhu and Nedumpalli Rammohan were superb. Madhu's clear voice and bhava-laden singing of 'Chalamalaya mrudupavana' delighted the audience.

The portion of 'Uttaraswayamvaram' that was staged depicts Uttaran romancing his wives when he learns that the Kauravas have stolen the king's cattle. He sets off to battle the Kauravas.

However, he loses his nerve when he sees the Kauravas. Finally Brihannala, who was driving Uttaran's chariot, is forced to reveal that she is actually Arjuna in disguise. Eventually, with Arjuna's help, the Kauravas are defeated.

Kalamandalam Suryanarayan's (who played Uttaran) depiction of the sringara padam 'Aravindamizhimare' was a testimony to his acting prowess. Kottakkal Chandrasekhara Warrier's Brihannala was the centre of attraction.

His experience and histrionic skill were evident in the portrayal of the dancer-warrior. A concluding session titled 'Acharyasmruthy' was held on the third day. After that a night-long performance of 'Nalacharitham Randdam Divasam' and 'Thoranayudham' were staged.

'Nalacharitham {ndash} Randaam Divasam' portrays the period after Nala's marriage when Kali, with the help of Pushkaran, conspires to banish him to the forest. Nala abandons Damayanthi and in due course she spurns the advances of a woodsman whom she curses.

Kalamandalam Gopi played the lead role of Nala and Margi Vijayakumar appeared as Damayanthi. Gopi's memorable portrayal of the padam 'Kuvalayavilochane' in Thodi ragam was enhanced by some fine manodharma acting. His improvisation in the padam 'Dayithe' and the poignant silence accentuated the effect of the scene.

Excellent portrayal

Margi Vijayakumar came into his own towards the last scenes of the play. His moving enactment of the padam 'Payyo porykkame' touched the hearts of the audience.

Kalamandalam Krishnakumar enacted the aggressive Pushkaran with panache while Kalamadalam Balabramanian excelled as the infatuated Kattalan as he enacted the padam 'Angane.' Kottarakkara Thampuran's 'Thoranayudham' dealt with Hanuman leaping over the ocean to reach Lanka. Sadanam Krishnankutty was at his best while enacting the 'Samudralamkhanam.' Kalamandalam Hari R. Nair appeared as Lankalaxmi. Kalamandalam Sreekumar's Ravana captured the hearts of the audience. Pathiyur Sankarankutty was the lead singer on the third day. Music was ably handled by vocalists in Kalamandalam. Kalanilayam Kunjunni performed as a guest artiste along with the percussionists of Kalamandalam. The entire faculty and students of the institution, including artistes who worked on the make-up and costumes, made this a memorable event.