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Updated: April 14, 2011 19:26 IST

Plight of a king in exile

Vinu Vasudevan
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Kalamandalam Kuttan and Kalamandalam Haridas in 'Kirmeeravadham.'Photo: K.K. Najeeb
The HIndu Kalamandalam Kuttan and Kalamandalam Haridas in 'Kirmeeravadham.'Photo: K.K. Najeeb

A staging of ‘Kirmeeravadham' at Thrissur gave prominence to karunam.

Kottayathu Thampuran's ‘Kirmeeravadham' Kathakali was performed in Thrissur recently. The play is regarded as a challenge for Kathakali artistes because of the depth of its characterisation and choreography. It charts the helplessness of Pandava King Dharmaputra, when along with his family, he is forced into exile in the forest. Intense heat, dust and wild animals plague the Pandavas and their wife, Panchali. However, Dharmaputra's main worry is the well-being of thousands of Brahmins who have followed them into the forest. The King then meets Dhowmyan, a seer, and on his advice prays to Lord Surya for a solution to feed the hungry hordes. Lord Surya appears before Dharmaputra and presents him with the ‘Akshaya pathram' – a vessel from which food can never run out.

The two-hour performance was choreographed in a slow tempo with prominence given to the emotion of ‘karunam' (compassion).

Kalamandalam Kuttan, a senior disciple of Padmanabhan Nair, performed the lead role of Dharmaputhra. The septuagenarian actor started off with a few glitches, but he regained the tempo in the second scene. His depiction of the padam ‘Bale Kel nee' in raga Kamboji was good. His delivery of the mudras and kalasams did not live up to expectations though. Kalamandalam Haridas' bhavas as the grief-stricken Panchali, was exceptional. Kalanilayam Mohana Warrier's Dhowmyan gave good support to the lead artistes. Kalamandalam Bajio performed the role of Lord Surya.

The outstanding feature of this performance, however, was the music by Madambi Subramanian Nambudiri. Madambi, a veteran singer and teacher at Kalamandalam, is perhaps the only musician who renders in the vintage Kathakali bani. With Nedumpally Rammohan giving him good support, Madambi sang some marvellous pieces in the play. Kalamandalam Vijayakrishnan and Kalamandalam Hariharan performed on the chenda and the maddalam, respectively.

The programme was organised by disciples of the legendary artiste and teacher Kalamandalam Padmanabhan Nair and the Padmanabhan Nair Memorial Trust, in connection with the death anniversary of the maestro. His disciples rank among the finest in the art form today. Padmanabhan Nair was the son and disciple of Pattikkamthodi Ravunni Menon, the creator of the Kalluvazhi chitta. He was the Principal of Kerala Kalamandalam and author of two of the greatest works in Kathakali – ‘Kathakali Vesham' and ‘Cholliyattam.'

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