The last day of the Kathakali fest saw a powerful retelling of the Ramayana. V.V. RAMANI
Kalakshetra’s five-day festival concluded with ‘Sampoorna Ramayanam-Part 2.’ It was presented by P.S.V. Natyasangam of Kottakkal, a troupe that was founded by P.S. Varier, the doyen of Ayurvedic healthcare.
The morning lec-dem highlighted the extensive work done by them in the traditional repertoire and also some new creative explorations of themes that suit the present generation. Four young artists from this school demonstrated various permutations and combinations of footwork, which was appealing not only to students of dance but also to rasikas.
Excerpts from their productions were showcased as well and we were able to appreciate the finer nuances of the abhinaya as the artists did not have their make-up on.
Each morning, there was an additional treat; the story of that day’s performance was presented as a discourse by Sri Sundarkumar. His erudite scholarship combined with the simplicity of language and speech endeared him to the students.
Ramayana continues to fascinate us and the large gathering was testimony to that .The show began with the entry of Ravana and his lament on hearing about his sister’s fate; his portrayal of Soorpanakha’s mutilation was powerful. The golden deer Mareecha’s arrival at Panchavati, Rama chasing it, Ravana’s abduction of Sita and Jatayu Moksham unfolded in quick succession.
The Thirainoku of both Sugriva and Vaali in red, black and white vesham was a resplendent vision and the powerful playing of the chenda and maddalam enhanced the visual appeal of the scene. The characteristic differences between the brothers were clearly demarcated and Vaali’s bossy temperament in not allowing Sugriva to sit and his falling off the seat were elements that infused humour.
The combat scene between the brothers and the procession through the aisle with Rishis Vishwamitra and Vasishta asking the audience to applaud, were obviously designed to hold audience interest.
Every artist or art form constantly seeks the approval of a rasika and towards this end he constantly strives to push the boundaries of his art, but a great deal of restraint needs to be maintained for all innovations to stay within the requisite parameters of the style.
There was sheer joy looking at the beautiful costumes and make-up, but while relishing this look of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana, it was shocking to see Mareecha sprinting across the stage in a golden body suit, so uncharacteristic here. The costumes and make-up of the rakshasas and the use of a branch of a tree as a prop, relegated these scenes to a level of amateurishness in a Kathakali performance.
This new production has also used Malayalam lyrics to reach out to a wider audience. The final scene, Rama Pattabhishekam,’ was grand and was a fitting finale to the five-day ‘Gurustvam.’