Kalamandalam Harinarayanan as Dharmaputra in ‘Kirmeeravadham’ competently enacted the plight of a King in exile.

Kottayam Thampuran’s ‘Kirmeeravadham’ occupies a special space in the Kathakali pantheon because of its structured choreography and fine character composition. Thampuran wrote four plays based on the life of the Pandavas in exile; two of those stories narrate the experiences of Bheemasena, one has Arjuna as the main character. ‘Kirmeeravadham’ is perhaps the only known Kathakali play that features Dharmaputra in the lead role. Pattikkamthodi Ravunni Menon, the father figure of Kalluvazhichitta, was a master of this role.

‘Kirmeeravadham’ begins when the Pandavas enter the forest after being exiled by Duryodhana and his cohorts. The Pandavas are accompanied by thousands of Brahmins. Dharmaputra, worried about how they were going to feed all of the followers, asks guru Dhawmya for advice. The guru tells him to pray to Lord Surya who in turn blesses him with the Akshayapatra, a vessel with an unlimited supply of food. Meanwhile, Lord Krishna, who is seething with anger at the Pandava’s forced exile, decides to let loose his Sudarshana chakra to kill the Kauravas. Dharmaputra pleads with him to withdraw it.

Usually this first part of the play is performed. At a recent performance of the play at Melpathur Auditorium, Guruvayur, the first scene of the second part was also staged, in which demon Simhika, in disguise as the beautiful Lalitha, tries to abduct Panchali.

Kalamandalam Harinarayanan enacted the role of Dharmaputra. It was quite commendable an act considering that it was only the second time in his career that he had donned the role. He maintained the sthayi of the character with rhythmically perfect movements and mudras.

The ‘pathinja vattam vechu kalasam’ (a dance), which he performed for the padam ‘Bale Kel…mamaka vani...’ was perfect. Haripriya Nambudiri performed the role of Panchali with good bhava. Up-and-coming artiste Kalamandalam Sivadas performed the role of Lalitha. His expressive eyes and flexible body movements well supported the performance. Kalanilayam Manoj packed a punch as Krishna.

However, the scene where Krishna withdraws the Sudrashana chakra was not up to the mark.

Kalamandalam Vipin (Dhawmya), Kalamandalam Sreeraman (Lord Surya) and Kalamandalam Bajjio were the other artistes.

Kalamandalam Jayaprakash, Nedumpally Rammohan and Sreerag Varma were the vocalists; Jayaparakash, especially, charmed with his adherence to the old bani. Kalamandalam Balasundaran (chenda) and Kalamandalam Venu (maddalam) were the main percussionists.