The highlight of the fete at Changampuzha Samskarika Kendram was the staging of three classic plays performed by some of the most renowned artistes in Kerala.

Hundreds of Kathakali rasikas assembled at the Changampuzha Samskarika Kendram, Edappally, Kochi, consecutively for three days, to experience everything the art form has to offer, right from Thodayam and Purappad, to select plays rich in classicism and dramatic encounters. Kalamandalam Radhakrishnan and RLV Pramod performed the rare Thodayam with dexterity.

Purappad as a logical sequence of Thodayam set the ideal ambience for the Kathakali recitals. Kalanilayam Unnikrishnan sang the Purappad and the Melappadam in a style evocative of that of his much eulogised predecessors. Kalamandalam Babu Namboodiri sang in sync with the Ponnani singer. Panamanna Sasi and Kottakkal Ravi with their accompanists Sadanam Ramakrishnan and Sadanam Devadas on the chenda and the maddalam, respectively, wove magical swaras that left the audience spellbound.

Kalamandalam Balasubramanian’s fine use of angika and satwikabhinayas to depict Lalitha in ‘Kirmeeravadham’, one of the most ‘disciplined’ female characters in Kathakali, was laudable. Rarely does the actor perform female roles, especially the Lalithas and Urvasi.

Setting aside his often compulsive predilection for Lokadharmi, Balasubramanian excelled in the enactment of the padam. His padardhabhinaya (bringing out the importance of each and every word) was subtle and suggestive. The tempo-transition here from 16 beats to eight beats was noteworthy too. FACT Biju Bhaskar as Panchali was characteristically subdued on stage.

Kalamandalam Babu Namboodiri and Kalamandalam Hareesh sang the two illustrious padams in ragas, Navarasa and Kamboji with tonal profundity, fluency and sahityashudhi. The change over in the charanam, kuravakatharu, from Kamboji to raga Kappi was enticing. Kottakkal Ravi’s fingering on the maddalam lifted the dance segment of Lalitha to a higher aesthetic terrain.

On the second day, the ever-popular ‘Duryodhanavadham’ was a crowd puller as always. Kalamandalam Srikumar as Duryodhana and Kottakkal Devadas as Dussasana stole the show with their sway in Veera rasa (heroism) and penchant for Hasya rasa. The scene in which Draupadi laughs at them and the vindictive sequences that followed captivated the audience.

While Srikumar retained the dignified ego of Duryodhana all throughout, Devadas as Dussasana shook the stage with his mighty presence. Kalamandalam Ravi Kumar as Raudra Bhima was at his best. Palanad Divakaran, Kalamandalam Jayaprakash and Tripunithura Arjun Raj provided commendable vocal rendition while Kalamandalam Raman Namboodiri, Venu Mohan, Kalanilayam Sankardas and Vineeth stirred the actors with their performances on the chenda and the maddalam.

The finale of the three-day fete was the staging of Kottayathu Thampuran’s ‘Kalakeyavadham’. Kalamandalam Gopi’s enactment of the padam, ‘Salajjoham’ in the slow tempo of 56 beats was classicism personified. He once again proved to the the audience that he is a master at paying attention to the positioning of gestures and expressions in time to the beat of the gong. His ashtakalasam in Chamba tala was with minimum foot-steps and movements. While coming across swarga ganga, Arjuna’s recollection of goddess Ganga snatching his bow during his duel with the woodsman (Lord Siva in disguise), and then, him tendering apology to her for beating her with the bow, was a brilliant flash of improvisation.

Kalamandalam Shanmukhan followed the kalari-chitta in his portrayal of Mathali. Arun Warrier as Indrani did his role with restraint. Pathiyoor Sankarankutty and Kalanilayam Rajeevan, the pet vocalists of Gopi, keenly followed the visual semantics of the protagonist as the invincible Arjuna. Kalamandalam Krishnadas on the chenda and Kalanilayam Manoj on the maddalam provided a symmetrical tone to Gopi’s abhinaya.

The three-day event was organised with the support of the Ministry of Culture, Government of India.