Kathakali ‘Subhadraharanam' and ‘Rajasuyam' showcased the wide range and aesthetic finesse of the artistes and the art form. B. Hariharan

Kalamandalam Vasu Pisharody's Arjuna (‘Subhadraharanam’) and Kalamandalam Ramachandran Unnithan’s Jarasandhan (in the rare ‘Rajasuyam’ in Vadakkan style) enthralled the audience at the Sreekrishnaswamy Temple, Ambalapuzha, where the two Kathakali plays were staged by Sandarsan Kathakali Vidyalayam.

Excellent sthayi bhava

Vasu Pisharody revealed, yet again, his consummate artistry. Pisharody’s Arjuna depicted simultaneously the character’s deep affection for Subhadra and his devotion towards Lord Krishna. Arjuna's sthayi bhava was finely modulated as the actor spanned the various moods, right up to the point when Arjuna makes good his escape with Subhadra after overcoming the soldiers. Haripriya enacted Subhadra.

Ettumanoor Kannan's Balabhadran did full justice to the emotional turmoil and agony of the brother who discovers that his brother, Krishna, had married off their sister, Subhadra, without his knowledge. Kalamandalam Shanmughan came up with a graceful Krishna.

In stark contrast to the romance and melodrama of Arjuna and Subhadra in ‘Subhadraharanam’, Unnithan's Jarasandhan in ‘Rajasuyam’ was a picture of rage and arrogance.

In the ‘Rajasuyam’ Kathakali in Vadakkan style, Jarasandhan appears as a Chuvanna Thadi and Sisupala in a Kathi vesham. This is the exact opposite of the Thekkan style. The performance was a different experience of theatre on account of the emphasis on the bhava of anger.

Jarasandhan’s earth-shaking roar set the mood for the performance. The entry of Krishna, Bhima and Arjuna in the guise of Brahmins was ably presented by Kalanilayam Karunakara Kurup, Ettumanoor Kannan and Kalamandalam Sucheendran.

The scene between the Brahmins (the Pandava brothers and Krishna in disguise) and Jarasandhan nicely built up the ambience to the final dénouement. This was based on Jarasandhan’s humourous questions to the Brahmins, which concealed his suspicions about their identity. As the question-answer session progressed, the Brahmins shed their disguise and the three appeared in their royal costumes.

Highlight of the scene

The highlight of this scene was a duel between Jarasandhan and Bhima. Brisk movements accompanied by apt expressions conveyed the strength of the two as they grappled with each other. Unnithan’s scintillating performance highlighted the king's fear of death. Ultimately, following Krishan’s hint, Bhima kills the king.

In the second scene, Sisupala’s thiranottam also began with a roar that again emphaised the sthayi bhava of anger. After killing Jarasandhan and releasing the kings who were imprisoned, the Pandavas started the Rajasuya and honoured Krishna.

Then Sisupala starts taunting Krishna and the Pandavas. Kottakkal Kesavan, as Sisupala, came up with a scintillating pakarnnattam that showed scenes form Krishna's childhood and youth. The ‘Vasthrapaharanam’ seems to be overdone of late and it affects the veera sthayi, the overall mood of valour. The scene ends with Sisupala’s death.

Pathiyoor Sankarankutty’s rendering of the padams in both the recitals captured the mood of the scenes on stage. He was ably supported by Kalamandalam Jayaprakash and Kalanilayam Babu. Kalamandalam Krishnadas’ chenda added verve to the duel scenes in ‘Rajasuyam’.

He was supported by Kalamandalam Srikanth and Kalamandalam Ratheesh. Kalanilayam Manoj and Rakesh handled the maddalam well.