Theatre Bhasa’s ‘Madhyamavyayogam’ Koodiyattam, staged in Thrissur, was innovative and evocative. Aasish Venugopal

Bhasa enjoys a unique status among Sanskrit playwrights for his inventive brilliance, as he recreated legendary stories, thereby attributing to the play a totally novel dimension.

Directed by Ammannur Rajaneesh Chakyar and presented as a two-day event, the debut of Bhasa’s ‘Madhyamavyayogam’ in Koodiyattam version, was staged at Vivekodayam School, Thrissur. The play is more about people who are discriminated against for various reasons. Reflections on intolerance based on caste, creed and sex are also interspersed in this play. The rehearsal instruction for set choreography was handled by Ammannur Kuttan Chakyar and the slokas written by K.V. Vasudevan.

After a ‘Goshtikottal’ (invocation with percussion for a full-fledged Koodiyattam) and ‘arangutheli’, the play opens with a Brahmin and his family in the forest who are alarmed by being pursued by Ghatolkacha (son of Bhima and Hidumbi). The ogre tells them that he has been ordered by his mother to bring a man for her to devour, but agrees to let the rest of the family depart in peace, provided one of them would offer to be his mother’s meal.

The second among the three sons agrees to sacrifice his life but asks permission to go to a lake and slake his thirst. He is given permission but when he takes a long time in returning, the ogre, learning that the man's name is Madhyama (middle), calls him loudly. Thereupon Bhima, who has been exercising in the vicinity, responds (Madhyama being an epithet of his also) and shortly recognises his son Ghatolkacha. But the son does not recognise the father.

Bhima offers to go with Ghatolkacha in the place of the Brahmin but refuses to be taken by force. Eventually, after some confusion, Ghatolkacha accompanies Bhima to meet Hidumbi. She upbraids him for not recognising his own father, and forces him to apologise. She also explains to Bhima, her husband, that her motive behind the attack on the Brahmin’s family was to bring Bhima back to herself.

On the percussion side, Kalamandalam Rajeev, Kalamandalam Narayanan Nambiar and Kalamandalam Ravikumar were on the mizhavu. Kalanilayam Unnikrishnan played the edakka. While Rajaneesh, as Ghatolkacha, presented a vignette of his bewitching artistry, Ammannur Kuttan Chakyar came up with a scintillating portrayal of Bhima. Sooraj Nambiar’s moving enactment of the Brahmin’s predicament deserves special mention.

The percussionists played stylishly thereby transporting the audience to realms of ecstasy.

Margi Sajeev Narayana Chakyar’s Hidumbi was in Kari Vesham. The costume and make-up of Hidumbi have been ingeniously designed to make it different from that of Soorpanakha in Koodiyattam.

Rajaneesh’s ingenuity as a director was evident right from the very opening scene and his stagecraft communicated effectively. ‘Madhyamavyayogam’ is such a gripping play with ironic references to history and modernity that it does not need elaborate reworking.

The play was staged under the aegis of Madhavamathrugramam with assistance from the Ministry of Culture.