‘Melayanam’ saw some rare acts by masters in the fields of percussion and Kathakali.

‘Melayanam’ was a cultural extravaganza in Shoranur that featured Keli, Thayambaka, Melappadam, and a night-long Kathakali performance by senior artistes. Keli was performed by Manjeri Haridas (chenda) and Kalamandalam Harinarayanan (maddalam) in the lead.

Thayambaka by veteran percussionist Kallur Ramankutty Marar was a rare treat. His free flowing ennams showcased his virtuosity. Several young artistes gave valuable support to his recital, as valam tala and edam tala (supporting chendas).

Rare enactments of Purappad and a Melappadam followed. For the Purappad, four artistes from different schools and styles of Kathakali presented Krishna veshams. Sadanam Bhasi, Kalanilayam Vasudevan, Kalamandalam Harinarayanan and Kottakkal Unnikrishnan surpassed themselves in the role of Krishna. Melappadam too was unusual with four chendas and four maddalams instead of the traditional two apiece.

Mattannur Sankarankutty Marar, Kalamandalam Unnikrishnan, Kalamandalam Krishnadas and Kottakkal Prasad performed on the chenda while Cherpulassery Sivan, Kottakkal Ravi, Kalamandalam Haridas and Sadanam Bharatharajan played the maddalam. Kalanilayam Unnikrishnan and Kalamandalam Vinod were the singers. Although it was innovative in style, the artistes could not achieve the desired ambience and much of the substance of Melappadam was missing. Nevertheless, it was a spectacular sight to behold all 10 artistes on stage. Cherpulassery Sivan managed to stand out in that elite crowd with his nimble beats.

The Kathakali performances were memorable displays of virtuosity. Kalamandalam Gopi donned the role of Velutha Nala (that is Nala before he is bitten by the snake Karkodaka, following which he becomes Bahuka) after 35 years. Gopi has not performed this role since he started acting in the lead, after the demise of maestros Vazhenkada Kunju Nair and Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair. Gopi began his performance in the typical ‘Gopi asan’ mode – sitting on a stool, a picture of grief. It was a perfect start to the padam ‘Loka palanmare…’ The padam ‘Ghora vipinam’ was also well-presented. One of the highlights of the entire act was the marvellously succinct way he enacted Nala’s separation from Damayanthi in the padam ‘Tharuniye vittu kattil’.

The following old-style manodharma attam was a bit different from what is common these days but he managed to convey the remorse and trauma that Nala undergo after he decides to leave Damayanthi behind in the forest.

Excerpts from ‘Santhanagopalam’ and ‘Duryodhanavadham’ followed. Veterans Kalamandalam Vasu Pisharodi and Sadanam Krishnankutti enacted their favourite roles of Brahmana and Arjuna, respectively in the play ‘Santhanagopalam’. Pisharodi, with his typical postures and gestures, once again did justice to the character. Although his movements were a bit slow (due to physical ailments) his emotion-packed expressions and manodharmas more than compensated for it.

The dapper Krishnankutti excelled in the role of Arjuna. In fact, he was full of fire all throughout the play. Kottakkal Nandakumaran Nair’s Krishna was nothing extraordinary. Kalamandalam Rajasekharan donned the role of Brahmanapatni.

Veteran artistes Madambi Subramanian Nambudiri, Kalamandalam Subramanian and Kalamandalam Bhavadasan handled the music and it was refreshing to hear the old bani of Kathakali music after a long gap.

‘Duryodhanavadham’ was presented by a bunch of stalwarts and up-and-coming artistes. It was fantastic to watch 97-year-old artiste Guru Chemanchery Kunjiraman Nair on stage once again. He enacted the role of Sreekrishna with perfect steps and expressions. The audience gave the nonagenarian a standing ovation after he performed an eratty without losing a single beat.

Vazhenkada Vijayan and Nelliyode Vasudevan Nambudiri performed the roles of Duryodhana and Dussasana, respectively. That the friends and one-time kalari-mates (they were disciples of Kunju Nair) were at ease with each other was evident in the performance. Kottakkal Devadas (Sakuni), Kalamandalam Soman (Dharmaputhrar), and Vellinezhi Haridas (Panchali) were the other artistes. In the second half of the play, Kalamandalam Krishnakumar (Duryodhana), Ramachandran Unnithan (Dussasana) and Kalamandalam Kalluvazhi Vasu (Panchali) took to the stage and complemented each other’s performances. Kottakkal Chandrasekhra Warrier performed the role of Roudrabheema with emotion and energy.

‘Melayanam’ was organised to celebrate the 60th birthday of chenda maestro Kalamandalam Balaraman.

A number of Balaraman’s disciples and friends made their contributions too with powerful percussion support to make the day special.

Keywords: MelayanamKathakali