The episodes leading to the Kurukshetra war were portrayed skilfully.
‘Bhagavad Dooth’ is an excerpt from ‘Duryodhana Vadham,’ a Kathakali dance drama based on the Mahabharata, written by Vayaskara Aarya Narayanan Moossad in Manipravalam. It was presented by Thapasya (Kathakali Academy) with Sadanam Balakrishnan as Sri Krishna, well-known Bharatanatyam artist and Kathakali exponent Leela Samson as Draupadi, Sadanam Manikandan as Duryodhana and Sadanam Vishnu Prasad as Dusshasana.
The dance-drama, at the Music Academy, begins with Krishna preparing to go to the Kaurava Court as a messenger and ends with Krishna giving the stubborn Duryodhana an ultimatum - to part with land or perish. As a pre-war chronicle ‘Bhagavad Dooth’ is important, but from an artistic standpoint, it did not offer any scope for the exploration of emotions.
The play however started on an emotional note, when Draupadi shows Krishna her untied hair and reminds him of her desire to avenge the humiliation she suffered in the hands of Duryodhana and Dusshasana. She relives the trauma with tearing eyes, as she seeks Krishna’s reassurance in the padam ‘Paripahi’ (Navarasam). Leela was able to convey Draupadi’s hopelessness and maintain the intensity as well.
Krishna’s advice to Draupadi that happiness and sorrow alternate in everyone’s life and that only what is destined will happen with god as witness, was significant with Hindu spirituality being explained.
In contrast to the restraint being advised, were the wild and ferocious Kauravas, Duryodhana and Dusshasana, in their elaborate costumes of heroic villain (katti) and red-beard (chuvanna thadi) characters.
Their unsophisticated mannerisms added colour to a straight-forward narration while Balakrishnan Asan as a pachcha character with head gear, Krishna, was subtle yet strong.
The dhoothu padam, ‘Jnathi Valsala Bhoori Bhoothitha’ in Chenjuruti raga is the turning point of the Mahabharata, and one could see a mild Krishna trying to cajole Duryodhana into sharing the kingdom with the Pandavas. Significantly, every sentence ended on a pleading note, ‘...Pandavarku Kodukkanam.’ Duryodhana gets agitated and orders for Krishna to be bound by ropes.
With much percussion and clanging, there is a fight between Krishna and the brothers. Krishna gives them the slip and gives a Viswaroopa darshan to the devotees present. The brothers swoon and wake up to the reality of a war. They start their preparations.
One of the attractions of a Kathakali performance is its music. Rendered in Sopana style at a slow pace, with emphasis on the lyrics and the mood, the songs maintain a rhythmic time cycle. The music,
rendered by Sadanam Sivadasan and Panayur Kuttan (vocal), Sadanam Ramakrishnan (chenda) and Sadanam Devadas (maddalam) was alternately soulful and pleasingly melodious.