The documentation of the unabridged version of the play 'Bhagavadajjukam' using state-of-the-art technology is laudable indeed.
Bodhayana's 'Bhagavadajjukam' is a Sanskrit farce, originally presented over 35 days. In the century that followed Kulasekhara, this play was presented as a Kootiyattam in the course of three days.
In 1976, Painkulam Rama Chakyar choreographed this play in a new pattern. His stage manual did full justice to the play. He made it more theatrical and cut short the nirvahana of the vidushaka. The description of the garden was highlighted by retaining the pertaining verses and through such methods made ‘Bhagavadajjukam' Kootiyattam what it is today – a three-to-four-hour presentation, interesting, absorbing, and relevant.
Transmigration of souls
'Bhagavadajjukam' (The Sage and the Courtesan) is about the transmigration of souls, as practised by a Buddhist monk. This is done to substantiate the process of ‘Parakaya Pravesha' or the process of the soul entering another's body. The monk does this to convince Shandilya, his disciple. The monk and his disciple meet a courtesan (Vasantasena) and her maid (Parabhritika) in a garden, which then becomes the setting for the play.
Shandilya's depiction of events and the monk's replies to his queries form the essence of the play. Vasantasena falls unconscious after she is bitten by a snake. The play takes a different turn from here onwards. Shandilya pleads with his master to save her. The master makes his own soul enter the body of the courtesan. She gets up and starts behaving like the holy man. The messenger of the god of death appears with the soul of the courtesan and slips it into the body of the holy man. The result is hilarious.
Documentation of this play in its entirety has never been attempted before. That is why the pioneering effort of Ekadanta Creations is laudable. They have, using state-of-the-art technology, brought some of the best Kootiyattam artistes together to stage this four-hour play. Shot in DVD format, it comes with straightforward English and Malayalam subtitles, and excellent audio quality.
"We held several meetings with artistes before deciding on this play. All of them, including some of the aficionados we got in touch with, were of the opinion that attention be given to the full format of the play. Such a documentation of the play would serve a dual purpose. It would be watched repeatedly by the hardcore Kootiyattam fan and would serve as invaluable material for research," says Pramod Sankar, the man behind the project.
The play was shot at Chathakkudam Krishnan Nambiar Mizhavu Kalari. Another significant aspect is that all the artistes are disciples of Painkulam Rama Chakyar, the pioneer performer who took the initiative to take Kootiyattam out of the temples, where it was originally performed.
Kalamandalam Rama Chakyar (Shandilya), Kalamandalam Sivan Namboodiri (Buddhist monk), Kalamandalam Girija (Vasantasena), Kalamandalam Shailaja (Parabhritika) excel in their roles. They have been provided splendid percussion back-up by Kalamandalam V.K.K. Hariharan, Kalamandalam Rajeev, Kishore P., and Kalanilayam Rajan.
Price: Rs. 495
Keywords: Koodiyattam DVD