‘Purushartham Koothu’ by Kalamandalam Rama Chakyar and ‘Ravanolbhavam’ Kathakali by Kalamandalam Pradeep moved the audience to raptures.
Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair, the valorous thespian of Kathakali, was conscious of the challenges when he, prompted by his guru and colleagues, opted for villainous roles in the genre. Ravana was the main character that got etched in the minds of aficionados through the stylistics of Ramankutty Nair. Passionate connoisseurs such as Vedic scholar K.P.C. Narayanan Bhattathirippad has hailed Ramankutty Nair as the embodiment of ‘thauryathrikam’ (confluence of dance, drama and music). The doyen was commemorated in Thrissur with performances of ‘Purushartham Koothu’ and ‘Ravanolbhavam’ Kathakali.
Koodiyattam is the only surviving form of Sanskrit theatre with a recorded history of more than 10 centuries. Chakyarkoothu is closely linked to this art form. Among the various texts employed for Chakyarkoothu, ‘Purushartham’ is rarely performed.
In addition to providing aesthetic enjoyment and artistic entertainment, the major function of ‘Purushartham’ is social, specifically in terms of the social critique performed by the Chakyar.
In this performance, the prologue of Purushartham – ‘Vivadam’ was the mainstay.
It happens in a village called ‘Anadheedhimanglam’ were two temple trustees get stuck in a frivolous argument. A mediator advises them to stop their argument. The brilliant performer and teacher in both Koodiyattam and Chakyarkoothu, Kalamandalam Rama Chakyar’s length and pace of performance were phenomenal.
He was at his evocative best when his verbal arrows unerringly homed in on contemporary socio-political events. Never did he wander through the wastelands of low-level ‘hasya’ or unnecessary sarcasm. Rama Chakyar was accompanied by Edanadu Ramachandran Nambiar on the mizhavu.
‘Ravanolbhavam’ was penned by Kallekulangara Raghava Pisharody. For the major part of the plot, it is the solo act of Ravana. The performance style is that of ‘nirvahanam' in Koodiyattam. Here it is called ‘Thandedattam’. Apart from Ravana only two other characters appear in the play (Kumbhakarna and Vibheshana) and that too only in the latter half of the last part.
Ravana recollects his past. In a dramatic soliloquy, he asks. “Did I beg before Lord Brahma for boons? Never! I got the boons only by means of my gallantry.”
Kalamandalam Pradeep donned the role of the regal Ravana. Although Pradeep showcased a versatile creative license in the narrations, he did full justice to the legacy of his mentors such as Kalamandalam Padmanabhan Nair, Vazhengada Vijayan and Kalamandalam Gopalakrishnan, right from the Thiranokku (ceremonial raising of the curtain).
Kalamandalam Sreeram and Kalamandalam Sibi Chakravarthy appeared as Kumbhakarna and Vibheeshana respectively. Sadanam Ramakrishnan and Kalamandalam Venu Mohan (chenda), and Sadanam Rajan and Kalanilayam Prakashan (maddalam) contributed to the performance. Kalamandalam Hareesh and Krishnakumar provided vocal support.
The programme was organised by Vedika, a charitable trust in Thrissur.