Sadanam Bhasi’s body language and expressions took centre stage.
After the initial Todayamangalam verses and the unveiling of Rama, Lakshmana and Sita, the tiraseela came down once again to unveil the protagonist of the scene, Parasurama (Sadanam Bhasi). He is in deep meditation, with his eye balls converging at the centre of the forehead (Brumadyam). He is disturbed by the thunderous sound from the breaking of Shiva’s bow. Soon after, he sees the glittering marriage party heading back to Ayodhya and stops them, taunting Rama with, “Areda natannidunnu?” meaning, “Hey you, who is striding, are you Rama, the ignorant fool?”
The 105-minute scene that was staged at Kalakshetra is the last scene of ‘Sita Swayamvaram,’ written by Raja Kottarakkara Thampuran, in an eight-part Ramayana, each part lasting eight hours or all night. The scene comprised the confrontation that lasted almost two hours, with Parasurama alternating between asserting his strength and mocking
Rama’s valour in breaking a ‘weakened’ bow.
Though there were padams in the script (atta katha), their role was limited to giving a sense of the mood and not to explore emotions. It was left to the vigorous percussion (Sadanam Ramakrishna and Kalanilayam Ritheesh - chenda and Sadanam Devadas - maddalam) and the rigorous role-play to keep the drama alive.
Parasurama's make-up and costume were realistic, befitting an angry-saint (It is supposed to have been modelled on Ravi Varma’s paintings in the 1950s). Sadanam Bhasi's nayana abhinaya took centre stage as his face was otherwise covered by a moustache and beard. His eyes ridiculed the royal party and showed contempt for Dasaratha, whom he accused of hiding behind women to protect himself. They dropped in shame when Rama spoke about killing a demoness Tataka, who was not his ‘birth-mother,’ and lit up in wonder when Parasurama sees Vishnu in Rama in the closing moments.
The actor-dancer also showed remarkable flexibility and energy in playing out the role of a restless and irritable sage. His body language was aggressive and his movements fast-paced. There was this telling posture he used most effectively - with one foot at the back and an extreme back bend - that emphasised the ‘I’ and its ‘superior’ connotation.
Singers Sadanam Sivadasan and Kalamandalam Sudhish excelled even in their cropped roles. Hari Padman as Rama played his role with dignity and restraint.