A highlight of Margi Usha's performance of 'Chitrakootagamanam' was her detailed description of the sights that brought alive the pristine beauty of the forest.
The epics are a constant as a theme for our classical art forms. Recasting them to suit modern times is something that is attempted by artistes. Kerala can consider itself blessed that dedication to the art form and chosen vocation has witnessed the continued presence of Nangiarkoothu performances in its undiluted format.
‘Chitrakootagamanam' from the Sree Ramacharitham by Margi Sathi was presented at the Margi natyagriham by Margi Usha. The two-hour-long performance was enacted in a very elaborate manner.
As a prelude to the main piece, a rewind to the circumstances that lead to Sri Rama being sent to exile by King Dasaratha was delineated before taking us through the course of events culminating in the entry into the ‘parnasala.'
Dasaratha's ‘supraja Rama' was unshaken by the stepmother being granted the boon she had been promised: one to make her son the king and the other to banish Rama from the kingdom. True to his response that he was not concerned about life as a king or as an exile, all he wanted was to be a good son of Dasaratha, the prince took it in the stride.
Margi Usha, with her elaboration of the sequence, brought in the details of the time spent with Guhan, the ‘kaatala' king. He gracefully refuses to accept the request to stay at Sringivarapuram. What Rama seeks is a boat to cross the river. There is the honour of hosting the son of Dasaratha. Guhan puts together a premium quality boat for Rama, Sita and Lakshmanan to cross the Yamuna.
The boat is also a point where we are reminded that they are going to exile. Rama asks his escort from Ayodhya to return to his father's kingdom and tell them that he has proceeded on his journey.
The calm and reassuring demeanour of the prince in exile is communicated well. There is Guhan who wants to accompany them but is assured that on their return after 14 years they would definitely stopover en route to Ayodhya.
Going into detailed description of the view of the crossing, they reach Bharadwaj maharshi's ashram. The sage knows that he has before him the Mahavishnu incarnate and honours him as behoves the position.
The following day when Rama seeks advice on a possible place to spend the years ahead, Bharadwaj Maharshi, suggests that it could be Chitrakoot across the Yamuna. Before the three leave for their new destination, Rama is offered a pair of clogs.
A highlight of Margi Usha's performance was the detail she went in to describe the sights that brought alive the untainted beauty of the forest. The reverence of Guhan, Bharadwaj Maharshi and Lakshman, the obedient brother, were also well communicated by the artiste.
The final parnasala sequence where the brother builds it choosing from the material available and asks Rama and Sita to occupy it convey the sense of fulfilment on his part and contentment of the exiled Rama. Rama tells Sita that the place is just like Ayodhya, all that he experienced in Ayodhya he feels here too.
On a philosophical plane, it translates into conveying that for Dasaratha's son, change of material and physical comfort cannot mar happiness and contentment.
Margi Usha's ‘Chitrakootagamanam' came with the impressive inputs from Kalamandalam Unnikrishnan, Margi Saji Kumar and Margi Raman Unni on the mizhavu, Margi Mohanan on the thimila, edakka by Margi Unni and taalam by Margi Sindhu.