Rarely staged plays and fine performances were highlights of Vazhenkada Kunju Nair Trust's Kathakali fete at Karalmanna, Palakkad.

‘Natyathrithayi,' an all-night Kathakali fete at Kunju Nair Memorial Hall, Karalmanna, near Palakkad, was an enjoyable experience for enthusiasts of the art form.

The festivities started with a two-hour-long Kathakali music concert by Palanad Divakaran and Nedumpalli Rammohan. The musicians kept the audience enthralled with a variety of padams. This was followed by ‘Arjunavishadavritham' Kathakali by P.S.V. Natyasangham, Kottakkal. This attakkatha was penned in 1984 by P. Rajasekharan, an engineer and a connoisseur of Kathakali. This was the second time that this attakatha was being staged at Karalmanna.

The story is divided into seven scenes and each is full of drama and emotion.

Dramatic scenes

‘Arjunavishadavritham' narrates the story of Arjuna's meeting with his cousin Dussala after he kills her husband Jayadratha, with the help of Krishna.

Although both Jayadradtha and Arjuna are the central characters of the play, in the first two scenes it is Jayadratha who is the more prominent of the two. The first scene, where Jayadratha romances his wife, is particularly poetic. As the play progresses, a remorseful Arjuna decides to seek Dussala's forgiveness. This melodramatic scene became noteworthy on account of the good work by Kottakkal Kesavan as Arjuna and Kottakkal Vasudevan as Dussala. Kottakkal Chandrasekhara Warrier's Jayadradtha was equally good. Kottakkal Unnikrishnan performed the role of Krishna.

An excerpt of ‘Sitaswayamvaram' followed. It depicts Parasurama's anger upon hearing that Sreerama had broken Lord Shiva's divine bow – the Thrayambakam – to win Sita's hand. The furious Parasurama blocks the newlyweds' path on their journey home to Ayodhya, and tries to pick a fight with Sreerama. Kottakkal Sudheer excelled as Parasurama with his energetic footwork and perfect expressions, especially during the enactment of the padam ‘Kshatriya vamsam…' Kottakal Unnikrishnan Junior enacted the role of Sreerama with élan.

Kottakkal Devadas' Narasimham from ‘Prahladacharithram,' the third play that was staged, brought the night's festivities to an end. Kottakkal Narayanan and Kottakkal Madhu, with the assistance of Vengeri Narayanan and Kottakal Santhosh, rendered the lyrics with bhava. Kottakkal Prasad, Kurur Vasudevan Nambudiri and Kottakal Vijayaraghavan, played the chenda, and Kottakkal Ravi and Kottakal Radhakrishnan performed on the maddalam.

An edited version of ‘Nalacharitham Onnam Divasam' and ‘Narakasuravadham' were the two plays staged on the second evening. Beginning with the swan's attam, ‘Nalacharitham Onnam Divasam' concluded with the swan biding adieu to Damayanti. Narippatta Narayanan Nambudiri's portrayal of the swan made for a marvellous start to the performance. Kalamandalam Harinarayanan essayed the role of King Nala with apt expressions and mudras.

Different interpretation

However, Peesappalli Rajeevan's Damayanti was the star of the evening. Rajeevan is a theatre artiste too and perhaps because of this he gave a different interpretation to the padam ‘Kusuma sawrabham nasa…'

‘Narakasuravadham' with ‘ninam' followed. Starting with ‘Karivattam' (Nakrathundi's attam), the story ends with Narakasura's victory over Lord Indra. Sadanam Bhasi's Lalitha was the standout character of the play. Bhasi, who normally performs male characters such as Hanuman, the swan and Kattalan, handsomely performed this systematic and emotion-filled female character.

The play also presented a rare chance for the audience to witness a ‘ninam' – Nakrathundi's entry after Jayantha, son of Lord Indra, assaults her. ‘Ninam' literally means blood and depicts the agony-filled entry of a character who has been assaulted, and Nakrathundi's ninam is, by far, the most spectacular of all such ninams.

The role of Nakrathundi was donned by Kalamandalam Pradeep. Kalamandalam Soman's Narakasura was full of energy. From the slow tempo of the pathinjapadam ‘Malikamar mawle…' onwards his performance picked up pace. Kalamandalam Arun Warrier's Jayantha and Indra were equally good.

Kalamandalam Jayaprakash and Nedumpally Ram Mohan, with the support of Sadanam Jyothish Babu, were the vocalists. Kalamandalam Krishnadas, Kalamandalam Nandakumar, and Sadanam Jithin played the chenda, and Kalamandalam Rajnarayanan, Kalamandalam Venu, and Sadanam Prasad played the maddalam.

The finale of the fete was a dance programme by students of The Kunju Nair Memorial Trust.

The event also marked the release of a book titled ‘Arjunavishadavritham Attakkatha.' The programme was organised in connection with the 24th anniversary of the Vazhenkada Kunju Nair Trust.