Sandarsan Kathakali Vidyalayam took the initiative to stage five plays of Kottayam Thampuran at the Natakasala of the Ambalapuzha Sreekrishnaswamy temple.

The five-day-long performance of Kottayam Kathakal in the presence of Kalamandalam Vasu Pisharody was an enriching experience for young Kathakali artistes as well as for viewers at the Natakasala of the Ambalapuzha Sreekrishnaswamy temple.

Excerpts from Kottayathu Thampuran's ‘Bakavadham’, ‘Kirmeeravadham’ and ‘Kalyanasaugandhikam’ and the complete ‘Kalakeyavadham’ were performed with a lot of passion and involvement by 10 actors who were ably supported by a committed 16-member team.

Precise kalashams

The festival opened with the Purappad of the five Pandavas in ‘Bakavadham’. In one of those rare moments in Kathakali, all the Pandavas appeared on stage in a remarkable opening scene. Love blossoms between Lalita (Kalamandalam Vijayakumar) and the mighty Bhima (Kalanilayam Vinod) but Hidimba (Kalamandalam Sudip) is a hurdle in their romance.

Finally, the two get married and Ghatotkacha is born. Kalamandalam Arun Varrier's Ghatotkacha stood out for the precision of the kalashams. This recital of the play concluded with Ghatotkacha's kalashams.

On the second day, in ‘Kirmeeravadham’, Kalamandalam Mukundan convincingly enacted the anguish of Dharmaputra. His act was complemented by Vijayakumar's Panchali. The scene in which Dharmaputra remembers the events that led to their problems and the agony of Panchali was intensely portrayed on stage.

When the Pandava sees Krishna (Kalamandalam Shanmukhan) and expresses his pent-up feelings, it did not overstep into the excess of accusations that this scene often spirals into.

Shanmukhan was at ease while presenting a spectrum of emotions that ranged from anger to equanimity. Arun Varrier was graceful as Dhaumyan; Kalamandalam Arunkumar and Sudip played Surya and Sudarsanam respectively.

In the first part of ‘Kalakeyavadham’, Shanmukhan's Arjuna was a delight to watch, especially during the padam ‘Salajjoham.'

Another highlight was the ‘Swargavarnana’ (description of heaven) at the end of the play. Sudip (Indran), Arun Varrier (Matali) and Kalamandalam Yashwanth (Indrani) were the other actors in the play.

The fourth day centred on the challenging character of Urvasi in the second part of ‘Kalakeyavadham’.

Vijayakumar's Urvashi was in strict accordance to kalari. He was at his best in the second scene where Urvashi bares her heart to Arjuna.

However Arjuna is unmoved and in a fit of anger and disappointment, Urvashi curses the Pandava prince. Kalanilayam Vinod played the firm Pandava and the moments immediately following the curse with sensitivity. Indran (Mukundan) was a soothing presence, reassuring Arjuna that the curse would eventually do him good.

The festival concluded in a befitting manner with ‘Kalyanasougandhikam’. The three scenes in the play presented three faces of Bhima.

The high point of the first scene was the encounter between Bhima (Arun Varrier) and Dharmaputra (Sudip), which portrayed Shaurya gunam (righteous anger and valour).

His detailing of how he wanted to kill Dussasana was quite graphic. The second scene between Bhima (Ettumanoor Kannan) and Panchali (Vijayakumar) presented a different emotional state. The scene between the two prepared the stage for the entry of Hanuman.

Aesthetic portrayal

The third scene was completely and rightfully dominated by Hanuman (Shanmukhan).

The attam detailing what Hanuman sees in the forest as Bhima (Arun Varrier) clears his way in search of the flower was full of life and aesthetically pleasing.

The enacting of ‘Ravananthaka’, the transformation into an aged monkey, proved yet again the flexibility of the actor in Shanmukhan.

While Pathiyoor Sankarankutty, Kalamandalam Jayaprakash, Kalamandalam Ajesh and Krishnakumar rendered the padams, Kalamandalam Krishnadas, Kalamandalam Srikanth, and Kalanilayam Ratheesh accompanied on the chenda and Kalanilayam Manoj, Kalamandalam Vineeth and Kalanilayam Rakesh played the maddalam.

Sandarsan Kathakali Vidyalayam's efforts to present the Kottayam Kathakal found a receptive audience on all five days. Every morning, there was a discussion and evaluation about the previous day's performance.