Nepathya’s seven-day performance of ‘Naganandam’ showcased the versatility and technical finesse of the actors.

Nepathya’s sixth annual Koodiyattam festival began with a presentation of ‘Kamsavadham’ Nangiarkoothu by Indu G. It was a performance that brilliantly encapsulated all the Navarasas.

On the following day, the dramatic troupe of Nepathya, led by Margi Madhu, began the seven-day long performance of ‘Naganandam’. A classical play written by Sreeharshan, ‘Naganandam’ Koodiyattam does not owe its dramatic content to the conventional dramatic sources, namely the Mahabharatha and the Ramayana. Instead, the play is based on the life of Jimuthavahana, who is considered to be the reincarnation of the Buddha.

Hence, this protagonist, unlike the much seen and hence intimately familiar Arjuna, Lord Rama, Lord Krishna and Ravana, mystifies us as he sheds all kingly bravado and sensual pleasures to retire to the forest where he finds contentment in serving his aging parents. His detachment is puzzling and we wonder, along with Aathreya, the Vidhooshaka, as to what might shake the equilibrium. And indeed the fine balance is upset in the sacred grove when Jimuthavahana sees Malayavathi, daughter of Viswavasu, King of Siddhas worshipping the Goddess of the forest.

Malayavathi too experiences the same emotions but neither voice their feelings to each other. Subsequently, he rejects the marriage proposal brought to him from her brother. He expresses his desire to draw her portrait and Aathreya brings him coloured stones for this purpose but, in the meantime, Malayavathi, who along with her friend Chathurika overhears Jimuthavahan rejecting her, prepares to end her life. She uses the creepers circling the Ashoka tree to make a rope but as she ties them around her neck and releases herself to end her life, Chathurika screams for help. Jimuthavahanan rushes in, saves her, shows the portrait he has drawn and all misunderstandings are cleared.

The play began with Jimuthavahan’s purappad, impressively presented by Nepathya Vishnuprasad. On the second and third day, Madhu performed Jimuthavahan’s nirvahana, an elaborate performance detailing in amazing theatrical splendour the past events in Jimuthavahan’s life, notably his heroic delivery of the heavenly ‘kalpavriksham’ to his people on earth.

The actor’s versatility was at its best when, in the following days, he donned the role of Vidhooshakan and delighted the audience with sparkling wit and adept voice modulation. Guru Ammannur Kuttan Chakyar regaled the audience as he took turns in being the Vidhooshaka on subsequent days.

Indu as Malayavathi and Kalamandalam Sangeetha as her friend Chathurika were able to capture the essence of a fine friendship. The other actors such as Nepathya Anjana, Nepathya Rahul Chakyar and Nepathya Yadukrishnan exhibited remarkable dramatic talent in their roles as Manoharika, Jimuthavahana and Mitravasu, respectively.

Kalamandalam Ratheesh Bhas, Kalamandalam Manikandan, Nepathya Jinesh and Kalanilayam Rajan created a grand atmosphere with their dexterous performance on the mizhavu and the edakka.