‘Lavanasuravadham’ was staged by an all-female cast in Palakkad.

‘Lavanasuravadham Kathakali’, penned by Palakkatcheri Amrita Sasthrikal, was staged at M.D. Ramanathan Hall, Palakkad, by an all-female cast.

‘Lavanasuravadham’, an excerpt from the Ramayana, highlights Hanuman's devotion and concern towards Sita. This portion of the Ramayana narrates an incident that takes place many years after a pregnant Sita had been abandoned in the forest by Rama. Sita's twins, Lava and Kusa, are born and brought up in Valmiki's ashram. One day, after getting the permission of their mother, Sita, the twins were exploring the jungle when they see a magnificent horse and capture it. Little did they know that it belonged to their father, Rama, the King of Ayodhya.

All of Rama's efforts to free the horse were in vain as the twins defeated his army and his brothers. Finally, Hanuman, who also meets with failure, is captured and taken to Sita. She recognises Hanuman and tells her sons to free the horse.

Amrita Sasthrikal's attakatha is meant to be performed all through the night. But usually edited versions of the play are staged. The recent recital in Palakkad also began with the twins requesting their mother for permission to explore the forest. The three-hour-long performance was filled with lyrical, emotional padams.

Stalwarts used to perform this part of the play in three different ways. Vazhenkada Kunju Nair developed a format of performance for Hanuman and he used to stage it with his disciples such as Vazhenkada Vijayan and Kuttikrishnan Nair as Kusa and Lava. The emphasis was on the characters and the enactment never failed to touch viewers.

Symbolic manodharma

Keezhpadam Kumaran Nair created another performance manual and promoted it with his students. Sadanam Krishnankutty and Narippatta Narayanan Nambudiri were the Kusas and Lavas of those performances. Kumaran Nair's focus was on the symbolic manodharma attams. The third was by Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair, who popularised it along with his disciples Kalamandalam K. Gopalakrishnan and Balasubramanian.

All five actors who enacted the play in Palakkad did a good job. Hanuman, the lead role in the play, was remarkably essayed by Arya Parappur who came good during a manodharma attam and a fight sequence with the twins. Although Arya lacks gurukula-based training, her mudras and footwork never looked amateurish. Her portrayal of the padam ‘Putrarude parakramam' was an instance when she proved her artistry. Anishma Ashokan and Gana Murali donned the characters of Kusa and Lava respectively. Sita was essayed by debutante Rachana.

Aparna Ramnathan's Sathrughnan was quite remarkable. Kalamandalam Venkitaraman, who trained all the female performers, deserves a pat on his back for his dedication and hard work. Melodious renditions by Deepa Palanad and Meera Rammohan were another highlight of the evening. Deepa, daughter of famous Kathakali singer Palanad Divakaran, proved her mettle as a singer. She was at her best during the padam ‘Anupamagunanakum' in Yadukulakamboji and ‘Sukhamoo..devi' in ‘Nattakurinji.' Sadanam Ramakrishna (chenda) and Sadanam Devadas (maddalam) gave excellent support to the artistes and the singers.

The performance was organised by Palakkad Kathakali Trust, as part of their monthly programme.

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