A three-day Kalamandalam Kesavan Anusmaranam included Kathakali performances and a Carnatic concert.

Kalamandalam Kesavan was a veteran chenda artiste, prolific writer with more than 40 works to his credit, and an accomplished actor. Kalamandalam Kesavan Anusmaranam, a three-day commemorative event at the Edapally Changampuzha Park, paid homage to the genius of the late maestro. Kathakali performances of ‘Dasamukha Ravanan' and ‘Ashwathama,' and a Carnatic music concert by Pranavam Sankaran Nambudiri were the highlights of the evening.

‘Dasamukha Ravanan' was performed on the first day. When it comes to the Pratinayakas in classical performing arts, Ravana has always been a favoured of performers and beholders alike. Koodiyattam and Kathakali are perhaps the two magnificent theatre traditions in India that have explored the physical dynamism and psychosomatic depths of Dasamukha.

While eulogising the tapassaattam of Ravana in the Kathakali play, ‘Ravanodbhavam,' K. Ayyappa Panickar, in a lighter vein, remarked at a colloquium that Lord Brahma appeared before Ravana “as if apparently pleased with the performance.”

Prompted by Kalamandalam Vijayakrishnan's long experience on the Kathakali stage as a chenda-player and with an artistry inherited from his father, Kalamandalam Krishnankutty Poduwal, Vijayakrishnan conceptualised and choreographed ‘Dasamukha Ravanan' as a dramatic monologue.

Myraid moods of Ravana

The hour-long Kathakali play was Vijayakrishnan's tribute to the late Kalamandalam Kesavan who used to enjoy composing for new plays.

The play began with the customary ‘thiranokku' (curtain raiser) of Ravana at the end of which he sat down, to the accompaniment of a humming by vocalists in raga Yaman Kalyan. The very purpose of such a humming is unknown.

The singers then moved on to the slokam in praise of Lord Siva, ‘Kapaalam thrissoolam karaabhyam dadaanam,' probably to suggest that Ravana is a devotee of the Lord. The different moods of Ravana are delineated in the play as he deals with diverse situations and people.

Vijayakrishnan, through his choreography, intends to present the navarasas through the character and life of Ravana. While the concept deserves appreciation, the choreographer, by borrowing scenes from several plays based on the Ramayana, merely does a cut-and-paste process to present the play. The treatment of the theme suffers from an intrinsic logic and aesthetic fermentation.

Vijayakrishnan does not allow any situation in the play to develop by itself and consequently, the character's identity is shattered. The play is akin to a painting in which one can see many different colours without any noticeable difference in each in terms of tone and density. The saving grace of the play is the segment dealing with Ravana, Narmada, Karthaveera and his wives.

Kalamandalam Sreekumar's Ravana did a neat job. He did not waver even for a moment throughout the play. Vijayakrishnan and Gopikrishnan played the chenda extremely well, especially in the fast paced triputa denoting the climax of tapassaattam. Kalamandalam Harinarayanan provided laudable support on the maddalam.

In the final analysis, the experimental play appealed to the audience more as an aural treat.

‘Ashwathama' was written and choreographed by Kalamandalam Kesavan himself. The story of ‘Ashwathama' was a visual treat for the audience because of the range of characters who appear in the play.

Visual treat

Kalamandalam Ramachandran Unnithan, who always scores with his Lokadharmi and involvement on the stage, donned the lead role of Aswathama.

Veteran actor Kalamandalam Keshavadev thrilled the audience with his ease in performing characters such as Shiva Bhootham.

FACT Padmanabhan as Krishna, Kalamandalam Sreekumar as Bheema, RLV Radhakrishnan as Panchali were also quite effective. Kalanilayam Rajendran and Kalamandalam Sreejith handled the music. Sadanam Ramakrishnan and Kalamandalam Ravishanker perfomed on the chenda while Kalamandalam Shankara Warrier, and Kalanilayam Prakashan were on the maddalam.

Striking a chord

Pranavam Sankaran Nambudiri presented a Carnatic classical music concert on the second day of the event. He opened with ‘Namami Vighnavinayaka' in raga Hamsadhwani. This set the mood of the concert that was vibrant and filled with creativity. The vocalist's meticulous planning kept up the tempo of the concert and he interspersed renditions and improvisations in the right proportion. He made it a point to introduce each composition to the audience.

The Bahudari composition ‘Marakoti sundari malini' had sparkling chittaswaras and this piece was tagged on to a more sober rendition of Mohanam raga. The upper sancharas were invigorating and the brigas never failed to strike a chord with the listeners. The Dikshitar kriti ‘Pahimam Parvati Parameshwari,' which again focussed on the higher octave, was flawless.

Kalpanaswaras were the best in Sankaran Nambudiri's rendering of ‘Neevadane gana' in Saranga raga.

The vakra swaras that took intricate twists and turns were timed to end in the adhara shadjam. The tricky tala made the swara singing all the more exciting. ‘Ehi mudam dehi,' a rare number, a Narayanatheertha kriti in Ananda Bhairavi raga, was followed by an alaapana of Todi raga. The vocalist's innate gamaka-laden voice immaculately painted the contours of the raga and brought clarity to the phrases.

On the contrary, Nedumangad Sivanandan traced the lakshana of the whole raga in just a few varied phrases. An enchanting niraval was the highpoint of the Tyagaraja composition ‘Kodinadulu.' The vocalist had indeed chosen a short composition as his main song.

Rhythmic excellence

There were moments of rapture when Balakrishna Kammath, on the mridangam, played ravishing rhythmic phrases in the taniavarthanam. However, Paravur Gopakumar failed to land on the beat quite a few times as he supported Kammath on the morsing.

Sankaran kept the audience glued to their seats with a few light Hindustani pieces such as ‘Bajat murali Murari' in Sindhubhairavi, and a Tulsi Bhajan in Ahirbhairav. It preceded a final Lalgudi tillana in Behag. This year's Kalamandalam Keshavan Smaraka Puraskaram was presented to chenda artiste Sadanam Ramakrishnan. The event included a discussion and seminar on the maestro's contribution to Malayalam literature and classical art forms. The programmes were organised by the Changampuzha Samskarika Kendra and Edappally Kathakali Sadas.

With inputs from Hari Menon