‘Arjunavishadavrittam’ Kathakali is an interplay of heroism and agony at its best. The play was staged at Tripunithura recently.

The latter half of the last century witnessed the staging of a series of new Kathakali plays, most of which were blind replications of the thematic structure and characterisations of the highly successful plays already in vogue. A couple of them, however, differed in tone and content. ‘Arjunavishadavrittam’, composed by Rajasekhar P. Vaikom, is one such play that made a difference both in terms of presentation and appreciation. It was recently performed at the Kalikotta Palace, Tripunithura, once again reinforcing its rigour and dynamism. The play unfolds the treacherous heroism of Jayadratha whose actions led to the death of Abhimanyu in the Padmavyuham formation during the battle of Kurukshetra.

Kalamandalam Soman in the role of Jayadradha did a sterling performance as is evident in his attempts to impress his beloved who is terribly annoyed by the news of her husband’s attempt to abduct Draupadi. Before setting out to the battlefield, there is the Padappurappad (preparations for war), which Soman enacted with amazing spontaneity and sumptuousness. The melam in the Triputavattom perfectly synchronised with the angika abhinaya and Veera rasa, as once again Soman attested on stage why he is a cut above the rest of his peers.

After annihilating the Samsaptakas, Arjuna is on his way back from the battlefield along with Krishna as his charioteer when he learns of his son Abhimanyu’s demise. Kalamandalam Srikumar as the grief-stricken Arjuna displayed seriousness and sincerity in dealing with the character.

However, the character had only a marginal impact on the audience because the aharya of the Dheerodattas (noble Nayakas) seemed incongruous to the actor’s frame and features. In the battle scene with Jayadratha too, Srikumar as Arjuna was lacklustre.

The last scene of Arjuna arriving at the Kingdom of Sindhu with soldiers and his agonising encounter with Dussala was poignant. Chambakkara (Kalamandalam) Vijayan as the visibly perturbed Dussala at the outset and as one tormented by the death of her husband, Jayadratha and son, Suradha, towards the finale, came up with a consummate performance. His degree of involvement with the shifting moods of the nayika and his gravity of expression were exceptional.

Srikumar rose up to the expected level of emotional magnitude as a shattered soul on hearing the death of Suradha.

Rajasekhar’s lyrics cater to the conformist genre of attakathas. At the same time, there are lines here and there pregnant with refreshing romantic imagery. Kottakkal Madhu supported by Nedumpilly Ram Mohan has sung each and every sloka and padam in the play gracefully, in tune with the Sthayi and Vyabhichari bhavas. A judicious mixture of conventional ragas and relatively unfamiliar ones such as Sudhasaveri, Desh and Ranjini amplified the sentimental vein of each scene and hence enchanted the rasikas. words. Kottakkal Prasad on the chenda and Kalamandalam Raj Narayanan on the maddalam were also excellent, especially during the Padappurappad and the duel.