Textbook presentations of Kathakali entertained a discerning audience in Thrissur.
Classical art lovers of Thrissur enjoyed a night-long Kathakali performance that included three plays – Kottayathu Thampuran’s ‘Kalakeyavadhom’, ‘Ravanolbhavam’ (southern style), and ‘Dakshayagam’. The programme was at the Sree Kerala Varma College Auditorium.
‘Kalakeyavadham’ is short and simple, but the style of the presentation is systematic in structure. After Lord Shiva gives him the divine bow, Pasupatham, Arjuna takes up his father Indra’s offer and visits him in heaven. Indra sends his charioteer Mathali to escort Arjuna. Following the meeting with his father and Indrani, Arjuna is enthralled by heaven’s beautiful garden. The underlying bhava of this play is veeram. The highlights of the play are scenes depicting the meeting between Mathali and Arjuna, an ‘Ashtakalasam’ of Arjuna in the padam ‘Sukrithikalil munpanay...’ and Mathali’s preparation of the chariot. All the padams are scaled to a perfect tala.
Kottakkal Kesavan Kundalayar, who specialises in Kathi roles, easily performed the role of Arjuna. This is only the second time in his four-decade-long career that Kesavan is essaying this role. His enactment of the padams ‘Janaka thava darsanal’ and ‘Sukrithikalil munpanay...’ were an example of his skill at essaying highly stylised roles. Sadanam Bhasi, another gifted performer, known for his handsome footwork, enthralled the audience with his enactment of Mathali. The petite Bhasi efficiently essayed the padam ‘Vijayathe Bahu Vikrama’. Each and every one of his mudras were in tune with the rhythm. Kalamandalam Neeraj and Kalamandalam Sooraj performed the roles of Indra and Indrani, respectively.
Story of Ravana
Kallekulangara Raghava Pisharodi’s ‘Ravanolbhavam’ is a challenge to any artiste on account of its structure and emphasis on maintenance of sthayi bhava by each artise. After a long gap, ‘Ravanolbhavam’ of the southern style was presented by Kalamandalam Ravikumar. This was Ravikumar’s debut performance as Ravana. Although the text of the play is the same, the performance was slightly different from the often seen Kalluvazhi style of Kathakali. The play narrates Ravana’s story, right from his childhood to his becoming a great warrior. The first one-and-a-half hour of the play portrays Ravana’s recollection of his past – without accompanying lyrics. This technique is called ‘Thandedattom’. Ravikumar maintained the sthayi throughout the physically taxing Thandedattom and looked energetic even during the later padams where Kumbhakarna and Vibheeshana, Ravana’s brothers, share the stage. His performance of Ravana’s famous ‘Thapassattom’ (his intense penance to Lord Brahma) started on a shaky note but he came good in the final act.
The last play staged on the occasion was Irayimman Thampi's ‘Dakshayagam’. It was a textbook display of systematic Kathakali. A bunch of young artistes stole the show with their power-packed performances. Ettumanur P. Kannan enacted the role of Daksha with élan but was not able to maintain the tempo throughout the play. He was at his best in the two scenes where Daksha meets Lord Indra and Nandikeswara. Kottakkal Devadas’ stormy presentation of Veerabhadra was the highlight of the play. Devadas gave a dashing climax to the night with his robust performance. Kalamandalam Pradeep’s Lord Siva and Sadanam Vishnuprasad’s Bhadrakali also played an important part in the success of the performance.
Musicians Kottakal Narayanan and Kalamandalam Jayaprakash, along with the support of Kalanilayam Rajeev, enriched ‘Kalakeyavadham’. Nedumpally Rammohan deserves a pat for his vocals during the rectial of ‘Dakshayagam’. Ace chenda artiste Kalamandalam Balasundaran played a significant role in Ravikumar’s flawless performance in ‘Ravanolbhavam’. Sadanam Ramakrishnan and Kottakal Vijayaraghavan on the chenda also did well. Sadanam Devadas, Kalamandalam Venu and Kalamandalam Hariharan on the maddalam did their part in enhancing the aesthetics of the plays.
The programme was organised by Kunju Nair Memorial Trust, in association with Thiranottam, Dubai, and Kerala Varma College, Thrissur, in connection with the release of ‘Mudrapedia’ – an online dictionary on Kathakali mudras.