‘Panchali Sabatham,’ the brainchild of Krishnaveni Lakshmanan, braided riveting music with poetry and lively dance to generate high drama.
The cast was formed primarily of young talents with the leading roles of Yudhistra, Draupadi and Duryodhana played by Narendran, Sruthi and Sheejith Krishna. The music set by veteran D. Pasupathi fruitfully channelised Bharatiyar's fervour into song.
Krishnaveni's meticulous choreography connected even in the edited version and its powerful dramatisation delivered on the missive of the good triumphing over evil. The excellent dancing and synchronisation of the entire troupe kept the Kalakshetra banner flying aloft.
The portrayals of Duryodhana, Dussasana and Sakuni were astutely given Kathakali accents to underscore their villainy. Even as Sheejith Krishna radiated a demonic aura, Hari Padmam oozed evil as Sakuni particularly with his ‘Sathiram Pesugirai’ dialogue. Narendran donning the role of Yudhishtra gave an effective but restrained performance giving vent to anger only when accused of preferring his blood brothers over Nakula and Sahadeva. In contrast, the obvious clean shaven and young countenance of dancer Rakesh clashed with the popular conception of Vidura as an aged and wise relative - a fact somewhat mitigated with his superior performance.
The proceedings began at the Pandava court with Yudhishtra seated on the throne with Draupadi while the other four Pandavas engaged in conversation. Happiness and prosperity were noticeable when uncle Vidura enters to invite them on behalf of the Kauravas to the game of dice at the new hall built by Duryodhana. He warns them of the suspicious intentions of his cousins and entreats them to a rethink.
When the scene shifts to the Grand hall at Hastinapura the mood created by the music and body language of the dancers brings out the evil in the air now. The fateful game of dice wears on to take a deadly toll on the Pandavas and eventually encases their queen Draupadi.
The scholarly direction gave attention to minor details. The counts of four, three etc for the roll of dice coincided with those Pandavas not yet forfeited in the gamble; while the diverse nadai of rhythm for Sakuni’s triumphant throw heightened the excitement.
The part of the Panchala princess (played by Sruthi) was skillfully handled by the choreographer. Bit by bit she was shown shifting gears from the benign Pandava queen who is the devoted wife to the towering inferno of the final denouement. This was where the dancer was given full reign to launch into a high rage with vigorous steps, flashing eyes and fast actions.
This being the case a substantial material for her sari costume would have retained shape without crumpling up under the exertions.
Sruthi lived upto the role of the steely willed Panchali who vows to smear her tresses with the blood of Duryodhana and Dussasana. Even maintaining the araimandi stance and performing fast thattimettus she burst forth into the impassioned oath that eventually egged on the Pandavas for revenge at every turn.
The brilliant efforts of the orchestral team with the singing of Sai Shankar and nattuvangam by Jyotsana Menon, mridangam by Anil Kumar, flute of Sashidhar and violin of V. Srinivasan added depth to the production.
Special mention must be made of the diligent blinking act of king Dhritarashtra - performed by Amarnath and also his attendants who waved their 'fan ' for him right upto the very end!