Rasikas got a rare opportunity to watch Kalamandalam Gopi enact Lord Krishna in ‘Duryodhanavadham’ Kathakali.

When he composed the play, ‘Duryodhanavadham’, truncating the epic Mahabharata to select scenes, Vaysakara Moosathu might not have foreseen the incredible popularity the play would acquire within a century. With characters of varying temperaments, plenty of melodrama, emotional outbursts, acts of vengeance, and war, the play has won the admiration of Kathakali enthusiasts. The play was staged in Edappally to a packed audience. Preceding the play were Purappad and ‘Poothanamoksham’.

The play narrates the incidents following the return of the Pandavas from 13 years of exile. Yudhishtira requests Lord Krishna to negotiate with King Duryodhana on behalf of the Pandavas. Krishna agrees and is about to leave for Duryodhana’s court when Draupadi recounts her anguish, when, 13 years ago, Dussasana tried to disrobe her. Draupadi had taken a vow then that she would tie her hair only after Dussasana is killed.

Later, Krishna’s attempts at negotiations fail and an arrogant Duryodhana orders Dussasana to take Krishna as captive. Krishna then reveals his cosmic form as Lord Vishnu. In the ensuing battle of Kurukshetra, Bhima confronts Dussasana by assuming aspects of the incarnation of Lord Vishnu as Narasimha (the man-lion). He disembowels Dussasana, drinks his blood and ties the hair of the petrified Draupadi with hands dripping in blood. Her vow is fulfilled. Thereafter Lord Krishna appears. Bhima’s frenzy fades away and he falls down at the feet of the Lord and prays for his blessing. Krishna informs Bhima that he has discharged his dharma and therefore he need not feel remorseful. The scene concludes with dhanasi by the actor in the role of Krishna.

With grandeur

In his formative years, Kalamandalam Gopi scarcely had a chance to enact roles in Kathakali such as Krishna and Srirama. He was singularly fortunate to have a quantum leap to playing full-fledged heroes at a young age itself. In this staging of ‘Duryodhanavadham’, Gopi donned the role of Krishna and performed it with extraordinary grandeur.

Hearing the grief-stricken words of Draupadi, Gopi’s Krishna reacted with an expression of disenchantment, bearing an undercurrent of distress. In the first part of his negotiation with King Duryodhana, one could notice streaks of playfulness in Krishna. But as the process of conciliation grew grim, Krishna’s tranquillity vanished culminating in the showing of the cosmic form. With precise movements and gesticulations, Gopi successfully brought out the contextual identity of Krishna.

Kalamandalam Sreekumar as Duryodhana and Kalamandalam Hari R. Nair as Dussasana portrayed veera (heroism) and raudra (acute anger) respectively, without overdoing it. Madhu Varanasi enacted the role of Draupadi. Kalamandalam Balasubramanian as Raudra Bhima was, in his usual form, exuding excessive energy.

Prior to ‘Duryodhanavadham’, Chembakkara Vijayan fluently portrayed the role of Poothana in ‘Poothanamoksham’. While Pathiyoor Sankarankutty, supported by Kalamandalam Babu Namboodiri and Kalamandalam Vinod, sang the slokas and the padams melodiously without a blemish, Kalamandalam Krishnadas’ chenda was aural ‘thandava’, especially in the battle-scene. Kalanilayam Manoj commendably supported the chenda with powerful strokes on the maddalam.

Changambuzha Samskarika Kendram at Edappally organised the presentation of excerpts from both the plays.