Rao Kamalakumari’s Harikatha narration was full of vim and vigour.
Reputation walks ahead of great artistes instantly drawing admirers to their programmes. Veteran Harikatha artiste Rao Kamalakumari is one. Her name brought considerable audience to her programme organised by Trividya Peetham at Ravindra Bharati’s conference hall. Kamalakumari is wife of late stage and screen veteran Rao Gopala Rao. Her father Suryanarayana Sastry was the prime disciple of ‘Harikatha Pitamaha’ Adibhatla Narayanadasu. She was in the company of Sasibhushana Rao on violin and Muralikrishna on mridangam.
In presentation of Harikatha, Kamalakumari moved away from routine. She delved deep into Adibatla’s style of writing and finding new perspectives to the songs and expressions.Though the subject chosen for the occasion was Adibhatla’s most famous and popular work ‘Rukmini Kalyanam’, Kamalakumari made her presentation sound as though she was reading out from her research work, quoting many lines that mirrored Adibhatlas’s brilliance.
Kamalakumari opened the main story rendering Himagiritanaye Hemalathe’ adding a set of swaras to display her versatility. With the ‘Rama’ chant, she surprised all with her ‘jumps’ belying her age. Though a chair was kept on centre stage, she never used it till the end and sat on it only to receive the felicitation. Such was her dynamism all through. Even her voice was strong and assertive forcing every bit of her narration sink well into minds. According to her, she spent 40 years of her life in pursuit of this profession. She explained who Haridasu was, what the word ‘Bharateeyam’ meant and how the letter ‘Bha’ stood for glowing light. She kept tid-bits to the minimum, generally used for relief, but did not fail to comment on tax system, comparing it to Bhishmaka’s (Rukimini’s father) rule who never troubled his people. While Kamalakumari gave enough time for the build up of story around Rukmini’s birth and her growing up years, she had to rush through the latter parts due to lack of time.
There was an interesting folk melody - Kittayya Muddu Kittayya in typical diction of ‘Gokula’ boys forcing Krishna to go and save Rukmini. The narration ended with Kamalakumari’s light hearted observation that Krishna turned a barber while in shaving off Rukmi’s (Rukmini’s brother) head and moustache as a punishment.
It was a scholarly discourse in song and verse, Kamalakumari dramatising almost everything that deserved. She gave good time for explanation of beauty of sahitya and their latent meanings, all extempore. She was warmly felicitated in the end.