‘Nalacharitham’ finds many stages on the Kathakali circuit probably because of the beautiful literature and the wealth of emotional situations in the play. The story is divided into eight parts, but only four of them are usually performed. Among them, the last part, ‘Nalacharitam Naalam Divasam – Part I’, is considered to be one of the toughest and the most challenging for artistes because of its emotive potential and complex character presentation.

Stalwarts such as Vazhenkada Kunju Nair, Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair, Kudamalur Karunakaran Nair and Kottakkal Sivaraman were maestros who popularised the narrative of this beautiful love story. While Kunju Nair concentrated on the characterisation, focussing on human nature, Krishnan Nair was a master of expression and mudras. Kudamalur and Sivaraman were adept at female characters. While Kudamalur followed the style of Krishnan Nair, Sivaraman was a follower of the Kunju Nair style. The present generation of artistes emulate many of the acting techniques of the titans. Several other gifted artistes such as Kalamandalam Gopi have also put their stamp on the play.

Ettumanur Kannan and Peesappilly Rajeev, both of whom usually think and act intelligently on stage, performed ‘Nalacharitham Naalam Divasam’ at Thrissur as part of the monthly programme of Trichur Kathakali Club. Rajeev, who is skilled in ‘lokadharmi’ acting, essayed the role of Damayanthi. His performance in the first scene, in the two padams ‘Theernnu sandeham ellam...’ and ‘Swalppa punnya ayen...’ was exceptional. The actor tried hard to emulate Sivaraman’s style but was not all that successful. Rajeevan’s enactment of the padam ‘Nyshadhan Evan Than…’ was not up to the mark. However, his reactions to Kesini’s words were both relevant and well enacted. In the last and final scene, his acting became more effective as he got his expressions right.

Kannan as Bahuka had a commanding presence on stage. However, his sthayi bhava was not clear. He seemed to focus on the mood of anger, which came across as rather inappropriate for the character. Despite a few unnecessary manodharma attams that seemed to divert the focus of the play, his overall presentation of the padams was good. The artiste rose to the task in the second and final scenes. He tried something new with his interpretation of the padam ‘Aananda thunthilanay…’ addressed to Damayanthi but it fell rather flat.

Kalamandalam Vyshakh donned the role of Kesini with élan.

Music by Kottakkal Madhu and Nedumpally Rammohan was a highlight of the play. Sadanam Ramakrishnan (chenda), Sadanam Bharatharajan (maddalam) and Kalanilayam Nandakumar (edakka) perfectly supported the artistes.