Drisyavedi organised its 22nd Natyotsavam last week. The theme being women oriented – Lalithas in Kathakali – the six-day-long Kathakali mela was inaugurated by poet Sugathakumari. The programmes began with the staging of select scenes from ‘Kharavadham.’ A rarely staged attakatha, ‘Kharavadham’ was choreographed and performed by Margi.

Margi Murali donned the role of Soorpanekha and Margi Vijayakumar donned the role of Lalitha. Soorparnaka is in search of a husband. She spots Rama and is infatuated. He however directs her to Lakshmana, who directs her back to Rama. Although the attakatha extends to Khara and his brothers battle with Rama, only select scenes were enacted that evening. The play ended with Lakshmana mutilating Soorpanekha.

‘Bakavadham’ by Kottayathu Thampuran is the first ever attakatha to give a female character a challenging role. The Lalitha in this story is the only female character to have an iratti in thala adantha - 56 in the padam ‘Marasadrusha manjulakruthe …’ The entire sequence is slow-paced and filled with opportunity for detailed mukhabhinaya. Kalamandalam Shanmughan played the role of Lalitha with grace and competence. Kalamandalam Balasubramanyan complimented him as Bhima and the duo succeeded in creating a memorable experience of this rarely staged part of the attakatha for the viewers. Margi Murali played the role of Hidumban and Margi Ravindran Pillai did the role of Vyasan. Kalamandalam Rajeev played the role of Khatotkacha.

Urvasi in the story ‘Nivathakavachakalakeya vadhom’ is another of Kottayathu Thampuran’s creations which demands technical perfection from an actor. Choreography of the padam ‘Pandavante roopam’ puts to test the skills of an artiste. Set to thala chembada - 32 and composed in raga Shankarabharanam, the padam describes Arjuna’s good looks and Urvasi’s desire for him. The verse ‘Thondipavizha miva mandumadharamathu’ has a nritha as an integral part of the act. Urvasi, who has been prompted by her friend Sakhi goes in search of Arjuna and finally confesses her love for him.

The padam ‘Smarasayaka doonam’ is an example of the stylised acting in Kathakali. Margi Vijayakumar excelled in the role of Urvashi. Sadanam Krishnankutty breathed life into the latter part of the story where Arjuna kills the demons Nivathakavacha and Kalakeya.

The character Lalitha in Kottayathu Thampuran’s ‘Kirmeeravadhom’ is a character of his own creation as there is no such character in the Mahabharatha. This Lalitha is hard to play considering the complexity in terms of its choreography as well as the diversity the character offers in terms of abhinaya. Kalamandalam Rajasekharan brought this Lalitha into action in his Thekkan chitta style of Kathakali. Panchali was played by his son Kalamandalam Vysakh. Margi Suresh donned the role of Simhika and Kalalmandalam Ratheesan, the role of Kirmeeran.

‘Narakasuravadhom’s Lalitha has a special place in Kathakali because of its structural frame work and precision in its repertoire. The sequence of ragalapana and the graceful movements and abhinaya, the sari dance in raga Varali followed by the padam in Neelambari creates a stir in the hearts of art lovers. Kathakali has used its full potential in the choreography of this Lalitha. That Kalamandalam Shanmughan who did this role had not done his homework thoroughly was clear from his recital. Kalamandalam Krishnakumar donned the role of Narakasura.

Poothanamoksham Lalitha is way different from the other Lalithas. This is more descriptive in nature and has scope for pakarnattom - a not so common phenomenon in Kathakali. Nelliyodu Vasudevan Namboodiri played the role of Kari. His interpretation of the character was different.Kalamandalam Vijayan most expressive face did justice to the character. Injakkadu Ramachandran Pillai donned the role of Kamsa and Mathoor Govindan Kutty, the role of Narada.

The six-day-long event helped art connoisseurs understand the subtlilities involved in all the Lalithas and the differences that make each one unique in its own way.