The first scene of ‘Lavanaasuravadham' is perhaps the highest watermark of Lokadharmi aspect of acting on the Kathakali stage.
Palakkad Amritha Sastri (1815 -1877) is known in the realm of Kathakali for his single Aattakkatha, ‘Lavanaasuravadham' (Slaying of the demon Lavana). Its theme is from the Utthara Ramayana, relating to the grand horse sacrifice (Asvamedha) conducted by Lord Rama, while Sita, his wife who was banished, lived in Sage Valmiki's hermitage, with her twin sons, Lava and Kusa. The story provides ample opportunity for actors of all grades, from young trainees to great stalwarts, to show their mettle. Junior actors are usually allotted the roles of Lava and Kusa. Hanuman's role is invariably donned by the senior most actor of any troupe.
On the contemporary Kathakali stage it was Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair, who, in his unique style, brought out the multidimensional splendour of Hanuman, paving the path for successive generations to follow. The heart rending scene of Hanuman's meeting with Sita in the hermitage and his exclaiming ‘Sukhamo devi, saampratam iha tee?...,' presented by Ramankutty Nair, ably supported by doyens among singers and percussionists such as Nilakanthan Nambisan, Krishnankutti Pothuval and Appukktti Pothuval, left an indelible mark in the minds of rasikas everywhere.
Kathakali buffs in the capital city had, however, to be content with just the opening scene of the play, which the playwright incorporated in his text to set the context for Rama's banishing Sita. A washerman's wife returns home after an overnight stay with her mother, but her husband, suspicious of her fidelity, abuses her physically and verbally.
Kalamandalam Ramachandran Unnithan and Margi Harivalsan played the roles of Mannaan and Mannaatthi (washerman and washerwoman), respectively, rather elaborately, in their usual style.
The husband snaps the sacred thread around the wife's neck as a mark of abandoning her. They divide their belongings and she leaves the premises. The scene of Mannaan and Mannathi, is perhaps the highest watermark of Lokadharmi (realistic) aspect of acting on the Kathakali stage.
The performance was held under the aegis of Drisyavedi, in connection with felicitating Unnithan, on his turning 60.