The 26th annual Koodiyattam fete of the Ammannur Gurukulam featured excerpts from various plays that tested the improvisation skills of all three generations of artistes who performed.

In every classical art form there is scope for improvisation. But to even conquer its periphery is a never ending process for any artiste; the apparent horizon is always only a temporary destination. It is up to each artiste to perfect his/her skills, and in his/her devoted approach and practice of the art form, new paths are tread.

The 26th annual Koodiyattam festival conducted by Ammannur Gurukulam, Irinjalakuda, was a play of improvisation. The festival spanned 12 days and showcased select parts chosen from various plays, enacted by artistes belonging to three generations. Each and every artiste did his best in the portrayal of a variety of characters. Ammannur Kuttan Chakyar as Ravana in ‘Udyanapravesam’ from ‘Ashokavanikaangam’ and Venu G. as Soorpanakha in ‘Soorpanakhaangam’ showcased their expertise acquired through their long association with the art form. Kapila (‘Akrooragamanam’), Saritha Krishnakumar (‘Kamsa Vadham’), Keerthy Saagar (‘Kamsajananam’), Gaayathri Unnikrishnan (‘Ugrasenabhandanam’) and Archana Nandakumar (‘Madhookasaapam’) made their presence felt at the fete through their solo performances of Nangiarkoothu.

‘Samudhratharanaangam’, which forms the fourth act of Bhaasa’s ‘Abhisheka natakam’, was taken up for detailed performance this year. The scripting of the acting manual and the direction of this act was done by the late legend Ammannur Madhava Chakyar. It is for the first time that this act is being performed comprehensively, including the purappad and Nirvahanam. The act spans four days and details the events that happens on the seashore prior to Rama’s army’s march to Lanka. It is here that Vibheeshana surrenders before the Lord and Varuna, the god of the ocean, paves the way for the army’s journey across the sea. The characters Rama, Lakshmana, Hanuman, and Vibheeshana were enacted by Sooraj Nambiar, Ganesh Krishna, Ranjith Chakyar and Rajaneesh Chakyar, respectively. Kuttan Chakyar donned the role of Varuna and this role can be regarded as an example of characterisation in Bhasa’s plays. The festival concluded with the enactment of a scene from the play ‘Subhadradhananjayam’ written by Kulasekharavarma, where Arjuna imagines in detail how Subhadra applies her make-up.

V.K.K. Hariharan, Rajeev, Narayanan Nambiar, Hariharan et.al. on the mizhavu and Unnikrishnan on the edakka provided excellent support to the actors. Kalanilayam Parameswaran and Haridas handled the chutti. Workshops for school students to familiarise them with the Sanskrit theatre tradition were also arranged in connection with the festival.