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A woman scorned

T.K. Sadasivan
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Koodiyattam The highlight of a performance of ‘Surpanakhangam' at Thripunithura was the depiction of Surpanakha in her crude avatar. T.K. Sadasivan

T he character of Surpanakha in Koodiyattam is quite unlike others in the art form. Not only is the costume different, but the language used for the character is also different.

While all other characters in Koodiyattam save for Vidhushaka speak in Sanskrit, Surpanakha speaks in ‘Prakritik' Malayalam. The character, in its evil form, speaks and acts crudely, something that contradicts with the highly stylised depiction of other characters.

Of late there has been a tendency to portray Surpanakha as a more refined character. However, in a recent enactment of ‘Surpanakhangam' at Thripunithura, Surpanakha was presented in her raw form and this was the highlight of the play. The play was staged at Government Sanskrit College, Thripunithura, in connection with the ‘Sasthra Sadas' and was presented by Kairali Kutiyattam Kalakendram, Desamangalam.

‘Surpanakhangam' is the second act of the Sanskrit play ‘Acharyachoodamani,' written by Shaktibhadran. While Rama, Sita and Lakshmana are relaxing on the banks of the Godavari during their exile in the forest, the demon Surpanakha disguised as the beautiful Lalitha appears before them. Fascinated by Rama , Lalitha entreats Rama to accept her love. Rama, however, rebuffs her and directs her to Lakshmana. Lakshmana also rebuffs her. She returns to Rama and Sita and pleads with them to allow her to stay as their maid. Again Rama denies her request.

A desperate and furious Lalitha turns into her fearsome form and tries to attack the trio. Lakshmana mutilates her. Soaked in blood, Surpanakha curses Rama him and escapes to Lanka.

Intense acting

The central character of the play, Surpanakha, was excellently depicted by Kalamandalam Kanakakumar. His intense acting brought out all the features peculiar to the character.

The entry of a blood-soaked Surpanakha to the thunderous accompaniment of drums, her path lit by flickering torch lights, was particularly spectacular. Lalitha was portrayed well by Kalamandalam Krishnendu. She was at her best while enacting the ‘Kesadhipada varnana' (the head-to-toe description of Rama). With her skilled eye movements, Krishnendu masterfully depicted Lalitha's crush on Rama, her jealousy towards Sita and her despair at Rama's rejection of her advances. Kalamandalam Krishnakumar as Rama was quite noteworthy. His facial expressions were superb.

Kalamandalam Sangeetha as Sita and Kalamandalam Vipin as Lakshmana were quite impressive. Percussion support on the mizhavu by Kalamandalam Dhanarajan and Kalamandalam Ratheesh Bhas was good. Kalamandalam Vijitha provided talam.

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