The events leading up to Keechaka’s death was perfectly captured in ‘Keechakavadham’.
The staging of the abridged version of ‘Keechakavadham’, as is customary, commenced with the scene wherein Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas, approaches Sudeshna, the queen of Virata. Sudeshna appoints Draupadi as Sairandhri (as a beautician-cum-attendant). Thus Draupadi hoped to spend the last year of the Pandavas’ exile among people from whom their identity was concealed.
The next scene began with Keechaka’s thiranottam. Seen above the half curtain, his majestic figure, in kathi make-up, duly decorated by excellent costumes, a colourful canopy and a pair of ornamental fans, exudes a jubilant and self-assertive mood. Keechaka comes across a bewitching beauty plucking flowers in the palace garden. He falls for her and decides to seduce her. ‘Oh! She is Malini, the recently recruited Sairandhri of my sister, queen Sudeshna. There is nothing inappropriate in attempting to seduce her,’ feels Keechaka.
Thereafter, when the thiraseela is moved sideways in full, he proceeds to make bold advances towards her. Contrary to his confident expectations, her response is one of bitter resentment. Then, all of a sudden, unnoticed by him, she slips away.
Presentation of this famous scene itself showed, beyond any doubt, the mettle of both the senior actors Kalamandalam Soman and Margi Vijayakumar, who essayed the roles of Keechaka and Malini, respectively. The next scene presented Keechaka persuading his sister, queen Sudeshna, to help him seduce Malini.
During Vijayakumar’s visual depiction of the famous dandakam (narrative verse consisting of extra-long lines), the presentation rose to the highest conceivable level of emotional (sathvika) acting. His insightful delineation of the character maintained that commendable quality till Draupadi takes leave of her husband Bhima (disguised as Valala), after getting an assurance from him that Keechaka would be slain without delay.
Valala, sans any impressive make-up or costumes, as he is just a cook in Virata’s palace, has to meet the formidable challenge of excelling or at least matching in appearance and action the titanic personality of Keechaka. Margi Balasubramanian did his best in this respect.
Kalamandalam Soman’s Keechaka was well presented but was devoid of almost all improvisations and imaginative acting.
Kalamandalam Jayaprakas, assisted ably by Kalamandalam Visvas rendered the exquisite padams and quatrains of Irayimman Thampi to flawless classical music that flowed mellifluously. Kalamandalam Venumohan and Margi Rathnakaran provided excellent orchestral support on the chenda and the maddalam, respectively.
The play was staged under the aegis of Drisyavedi in Thiruvananthapuram.