Kalamandalam Pradeep and Sadanam Bhasi came good in their roles as Ravana and Narada, respectively, during a performance of ‘Balivijayam’ in Pattambi.

In the olden days in Valluvanad, Kathakali used to be performed on open stages that were illuminated by flickering wicker lamps that highlighted the drama on stage. A recent performance of ‘Balivijayam’, staged on an open-air stage surrounded by trees at the Government High School, Pattambi, Palakkad, evoked nostalgia.

Kallur Nambudiripad’s ‘Balivijayam’ is considered one of the important ‘rajasa’ stories in Kathakali. The role of Ravana in this play tests the skills of an artiste as it is a fairly long one that requires the artiste to be on stage for nearly three hours.

The late legend Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair was a master of this role. In fact, Ramankutty Nair’s Ravana and Kalamandalam Padmanabhan Nair’s Narada in ‘Balivijayam’ was once a much sought after combination. Ramankutty Nair and Keezhpadam Kumaran Nair (as Narada) were also popular.

Of the new generation of artistes, Kalamandalam Pradeep has distinguished himself with his skill in Kathi veshams. He was majestic as Ravana. His presentation of the pathinja padam ‘Aravinda dalopama nayane...’ was noteworthy. In the subsequent manodharmam with Mandodari, Pradeep’s enactment was rather unattractive because of what seemed like a lack of control over the character. The romantic scenes bordered on impropriety and seemed untimely. However, he more than made up for it with his near perfect enactment of the padams ‘Narada Maha Mune...’ and ‘Chithramaho Namukkoru...’

The most important parts of this play are Ravana’s ‘Kailasodharanam’ and ‘Parvathiviraham’. Pradeep performed these with panache; his gestures and fast movements in between the attams were interesting to watch.

However, one wished that he hadn’t spent so much time on these parts.

Sadanam Bhasi, a disciple of Keezhpadam Kumaran Nair, reminded viewers of his guru’s interpretation of Narada. His act was a delight to watch. In this play, it is important that the actors who play Ravana and Narada have a good equation on stage. Pradeep and Bhasi rose to the task and were on the same plane throughout the play.

Vellinezhi Haridas performed the role of Mandodari. His presentation of the padam ‘Pamkthi kanta...’ was enchanting. Kalamandalam Neeraj as Bali was at his energetic best.

Nedumpalli Rammohan and Sreerag Varma were the singers. Kottakkal Vijayaraghavan and Kottakkal Manish performed on the chenda, while Cherpulassery Hariharan and Kalamandalam Jayaprasad played the maddalam.

The performance was organised under the aegis of Ekalochanam, a new organisation of Kathakali buffs.