One of the highlights of this year’s Koodiyattam fete at Ammanur Gurukulam was an unabridged performance of ‘Thoranayudham’.
The annual Koodiyattam festival at Ammanur Gurukulam, Irinjalakuda, featured performances by three generation of artistes, who are teachers as well as former students of the institution. This is the 27th edition of the fete and, like every year, this year too a play was enacted in full, in addition to select scenes from other plays. The highlight of the festival was the complete presentation of the play ‘Thoranayudham’ and a soliloquy from ‘Subhadradhananjayam’.
‘Thoranayudham’, the third act of ‘Abhisheka natakam’ by Bhasa, was staged with Purappad and Nirvahanam, and spanned six evenings. The story is about Hanuman’s visit to the Ashokavanika, Ravana’s palatial garden; a visit that eventually leads to him torching Lanka with his tail. After the customary Purappad on the first day, Nirvahanam was enacted on the second and third day. Here the character Sankhukarna describes in detail the dynasty as well as the prowess of Ravana. The nirvahanam narrates the situation and gives an introduction to the play that is to be performed on the following days. Ganesh Krishna performed the Purappad and the Nirvahanam on the first day while Pothiyil Ranjith Chakyar performed the Nirvahanam on the second day.
The Koodiyattam starts with Sankhukarna, terribly worried about the damages inflicted to the garden, reporting the situation to his master Ravana. Hanuman surrenders after a series of exchanges and Ravana orders his minions to set Hanuman’s tail on fire. Then, on the third and final day, Ravana enacts some of the valiant deeds that sheds light on his bravery, such as his lifting of mount Kailash and so on. The acting techniques for this portion need special mention as the actor, with the support of just eye movements, gives a panoramic description of the majestic mountain and its features. The performer simply stands, both hands locked in front of the chest with each hand gripping opposite shoulders as he presents an illusionary world beyond space and time. The acting techniques employed in ‘Kailasodharanam’ and accompanying ‘Paarvathyviraham’ is clear evidence of the highly developed theatrical methods in Koodiyattam. Sooraj Nambiar and Ammannur Rajaneesh enacted the roles of Ravana and Hanuman, respectively, with élan.
Veteran Ammannur Kuttan Chakyar performed the piece ‘Sikhinisalabham’ from Kulasekhara Varma’s ‘Subhadradhananjayam’. Here the sanctity and serenity of a hermitage and its surroundings are essayed by enacting some unnatural scenes such as moths unhurt by the fire, a tigress feeding a baby deer, a baby elephant playing with the lion and a mongoose mothering a snake. Here too the acting method – movements of eyes and facial muscles – is the highlight. The lips of the actor always remains closed.
Nangiarkoothu was also given equal representation in the festival. This included ‘Kamsajananam’ by Archana Nandakumar, ‘Ugrasenabandanam’ by Keerthi Saagar, ‘Gopasthreevasthraapaharanam’ by Saritha Krishnakumar, ‘Jaraasandhayudham’ by Kapila, ‘Kamsavadham’ by Aparna Nangiar and ‘Sree Krishnaavatharam’ by Gaayathri Unnikrishnan.
Percussion plays a prominent role in the presentation of the performances as each expression is exported to the audience with the support of variation in the sounds produced on the mizhavu and the edakka, thereby enhancing the experience. The mizhavu team comprising Rajeev, Hariharan, Narayanan Nambiar, Ravikumar, Vineesh, Jayaraj, and Manikandan did a commendable job, supported by edakka artistes Unnikrishnan and Kaladharan.