Popular Kathakali plays, Carnatic concerts and dance recitals were part of a cultural fete at Kottakkal.

The annual, week-long festival of Sree Viswambhara Temple, Kottakkal, was a real feast of dance, drama, music and percussion.

Perhaps the most colourful and interesting of the many cultural programmes were five night-long Kathakali recitals staged by eminent artistes. ‘Kalyanasaugandhikam’ was the inaugural play. Kalamandalam Gopi’s exceptional performance as Bheemasena in the first half of the play set the standard for the fete. It was a rare opportunity for the rasikas to see the maestro Gopi in this role that he last performed several years ago. Veteran artiste Madavoor Vasudevan Nair enacted Hanuman, while Sadanam Krishnankutty, another senior performer, essayed the role of Bheemasena in the second part.

‘Kalyanasougandhikam’ was followed by the staging of ‘Utharaswayamvaram’ (Part Two). Ettumanur Kannan acted as Brihannala (Arjuna in disguise at the court of Virata), while up-and-coming artiste Kottakkal C.M. Unnikrishnan portrayed Utharan.

‘Ayyappacharitham’, written by C.A. Warrier, and ‘Dakshayagam’ were the two stories performed on the second day of the fete. Kottakkal Chandrasekhara Warrier played the lead role of Soorppakan in the rarely staged ‘Ayyappacharitham’, which narrates the tale of Lord Ayyappa of Sabarimala. Kalamandalam Vazhenkada Vijayan performed the role of Daksha in the first part of ‘Dakshayagam’ with élan – especially in the scenes where the character encounters Lord Indra and Nandikeswara. Sadanam Manikantan (Daksha in the second part of the play) and Kottakkal Devadas (Veerabhadra) were the other main artistes.

On the third evening of the fete, ‘Santhanagopalam’ and ‘Duryodhanavadham’, both based on the life of Lord Krishna, were performed. Kalamandalam Vasu Pisharodi well essayed his signature role of Brahmana in ‘Santhanagopalam’ and made up for his weak knee with exceptional expressions and gestures. His mastery over the role and his skill in the art form were evident in the first three scenes. He was at his emotional best in the second scene of the play where Brahmana comes to the Yadava court with the corpse of his child. Kottakkal Sudheer, a young actor from PSV Natyasangham, Kottakkal, donned the role of Arjuna and was able to portray the egoistic side of the character with perfection. Kalamandalam Shanmughan’s Krishna and Kalamandalam Kesavan Nambudiri’s Brahmanapatni were also good. Kalamandalam Pradeep’s Duryodhana in the second play was a pick of the festival as was Kalamandalam Soman’s Rowdrabheema. Kottakkal Rajumohan’s Panchali and Kottakkal Murali’s Dussasana were equally marvellous.

Kottayam Thampuran’s ‘Nivathakavacha Kalakeyavadham’ was performed on the fourth night. Kottakkal Kesavan Kundalayar, one of the most promising young actors on the scene today, essayed Arjuna; a role that is supposed to be one of the most challenging for an artiste because its sheer length sans any manodharama tests one’s stamina and technical skill. Kesavan beautifully presented the famous padams ‘Salajjoham…’ and ‘Vijayan aham...’ Sadanam Bhasi’s dexterous movements and textbook mudras as Mathali, Indra’s charioteer, were a pleasure to watch. Kalamandalam Rajasekharan, a senior ‘sthree vesham’ artiste, was charismatic as Urvashi (in the Southern style).

Kalamandalam Balasubramanian (Nala) and Margi Vijayakumar (Damayanthi) were the main artistes of ‘Nalacharitham Part Two’, the first play performed on the last night of the fete. Kalamandalam Kuttan, Kalamandalam Ramachandran Unnithan and Kalamandalam Krishnakumar also played a valuable role in making the play a success.

Apart from Kathakali, Mohiniyattam, Carnatic music, and Thayambaka were also performed. If Usha Suresh Balaji’s Mohinyattam was a treat for the eyes, Cherthala Ranganathan Sharma’s kutcheri was perfection personified. Sanjay Subramanyan’s and Aswathi Tirunal Rama Varma’s vocal concerts and M. Narmada’s violin recital were highlights of the fete. The Thayambaka led by percussion heavyweights such as Mattannur Sankarankutty Marar, Kallur Ramankutty Marar, Kalamandalam Balaraman, Porur Unnikrishnan, Thriprangode Parameswara Marar, Kallekulangara Achuthankutty Marar, Manjeri Haridas and Panamanna Sasi also won much appreciation, especially Unnikrishnan’s one-hour-long extravaganza on the chenda. The fete was organised by Kottakkal Aryavaidyasala.