Indu G. gave life to multiple characters from the Mahabharatha as she traced the life of Draupadi in ‘Draupadi’ Nangiarkoothu.
In Koodiyattam, the nirvahanam (recapitulation) is conducted to inform the audience of the past actions of the protagonist’s life. However, ‘Draupadi’ Nangiarkoothu, presented by Indu G. as part of Draupadi’s nirvahanam for the Koodiyattam play ‘Venisamharam’, stood apart, as it attempted to project the workings of the mind behind the actions.
Spread over three days, Draupadi’s life, with all its highs and lows, unfolded before the audience. On the first day, Draupadi’s introduction and her marriage were the focal points but it was the second day that brought forth the true splendour of a Koodiyattam performance.
Using detailed eye and hand movements, Indu juxtaposed the two conflicting emotions of envy and delight, experienced by Duryodhana, while seeing the enchanting palace of Indraprastha.
When Duryodhana beckons his brothers to observe the life-like statues of a peacock, a lotus and a young woman, one feels for his child-like wonder. But very soon, his face starts to distort and what follows is a study of a mind getting devoured by jealousy.
Ridiculed by Draupadi, who sees him stumbling in the pool, Duryodhana’s mind moves from jealousy to murderous rage. He feels that Draupadi’s peals of laughter can only be silenced by gaining all what she enjoys.
His ever indulgent uncle Shakuni steps in to deliver him all that all he covets with a cunning throw of dice.
The subsequent scenes were marvels of ‘pakarnattam’ as Indu deftly impersonated one character after another – the scheming Shakuni, the spiteful Duryodhana, the crestfallen Yudhishtira and finally the boisterous Dussasana as he rushes to summon Draupadi.
Draupadi’s royal posture, sitting in her chamber, awaiting her impending fate, evokes pity. Dussasana, incited by Duryodhana, starts to disrobe her in front of the Kaurava sabha. The unbearable intensity of the scene is finally relieved when Draupadi swoons, after requesting Lord Krishna to come to her rescue.
The day’s performance concluded with the fiery curses that she heaps on all those who violated her honour.
Day three was filled with scenes of unrelenting gruesomeness. Duryodhanan’s thighs are torn apart and Ashwatthama does violent penance to gain supernatural powers from Rudra. Empowered by Rudra’s blessings, Ashwatthama goes on a bloody rampage in the Pandava settlements. For a spell of time, Indu’s performance hardly seemed to be a solo one as she transformed into many characters and brought alive the goriness of a full-fledged war, with marvellous speed and dexterity.
One moment, she is Yudhishtira who collapses seeing the dead bodies of the slain Pandavas, and in the next she is Draupadi, fiercely calling for revenge, and later she turns into Bhima and Arjuna as they set forth in fearsome retaliation.
Sages Vyasa and Narada, who intervene as the war takes an ugly turn, Ashwatthama, who attempts to slay the pregnant Uthara, and Krishna coming to the rescue were the other characters that she presented with distinct demeanour and gestures.
The intense emotions that blazed on the artiste’s face were enhanced by the play of mizhavu and edakka, which were at their versatile best in the hands of Kalamandalam Manikandan, Nepathya Jinesh and Kalanilayam Rajan, respectively.
‘Draupadi’ Nangiarkoothu was composed by Usha Nangiar and the slokas were written by K.V.Vasudevan.
With Indu’s performance of the play, it is once again proven that our epics continue to speak to our times in the depiction of the human plight in times of conflict and war.