Theatre Scenes from five plays were staged at Natyapriya's three-day Kathakali fete at Thrissur. Vinu Vasudevan

K athakali took centre-stage at a three-day fete at the Sankarankulangara temple in Thrissur. The highlight of the fete was that many up-and-coming artistes donned prominent roles in the plays performed as part of the fete. On all three days, there were seminars by experts, lecture-demonstrations by renowned artistes and cholliyattam by young performers. The evenings were devoted to Kathakali plays. Five scenes from different attakathas were performed by around 30 artistes.

A scene featuring Kattalan and Damayanthi from ‘Nalacharitham' was the inaugural performance. Sadanam Bhasi enacted the role of the love-struck Kattalan with élan. His enactment of the padam ‘Angane njan angu povathengane' was poignant. Bhasi's style resembled that of his late guru Keezhpadam Kumaran Nair's. His fast but well-executed kalasams gave a sprightly start to the fete. Kalamandalam Kasinathan played Damayanthi.

Rambha rebuffs Ravana

This was followed by ‘Rambhapravesham' – the scene that depicts Ravana's encounter with Rambha, an apsara. Ravana falls for Rambha's beauty and tries to seduce her. Rambha rebuffs his advances; an angry Ravana tries to molest her. Kalamandalam Pradeep essayed the lead role of Ravana with élan.

The Padappurappad, which he performed in the first scene, was perfect and methodically structured. Vellinezhi Haridas, a senior artiste skilled at female roles, enacted Rambha. The second part of Irayimman Thampi's ‘Dakshayagam' was performed on the second day. It narrates how Daksha Prajapathy, son of Lord Brahma, tries to pick a fight with Lord Shiva who married his daughter Sathi, without his consent.

It is a fight that Lord Shiva ultimately wins after he sends Veerabhadra and Bhadrakali to defeat Daksha. Ettumanur Kannan performed as Daksha, giving equal importance to bhava and nritha. His performance in the padam ‘Ariyathe mama puthriye' was excellent.

Kalamandalam Manoj Kumar essayed a powerful and energetic Lord Shiva. He was at his best in the scene with Veerbhadra and Bhadrakali. Sadanam Vijayan performed the role of Sathi. Kalamandalam Hari R. Nair impressed as Veerabhadra, roars and all. Hari Nair, well-versed in Thadi veshams, performed different types of kalasams that enriched the play. Kalamandalam Neeraj donned the role of Bhadrakali.

Outstanding performances

The final evening of the fete witnessed two outstanding performances – the Asari (the carpenter) of ‘Bakavadham,' and a scene with Balabhadra and Krishna from ‘Subhadraharanam.' ‘Bakavadham,' penned by Kottayathu Thampuran, tells the tale of the Pandavas' exile in the forest.

Duryodhana sends Purochana to set the Pandavas' house on fire. Knowing this, Vidurar sends an Asari to dig a tunnel to help the Pandavas escape from the trap.

The costume and make-up for the Asari here is markedly different from other characters in Kathakali, but there is a well-choreographed performance manual for this character. Asari Koppan was the master of this role; he popularised the typical gestures and acting style for this vesham. Kottakkal Devadas, known for his Thadi veshams, did justice to the character.

Although the performance itself was quite lengthy, his humour-packed acting was superb. In the second play, Kalamandalam Soman and Kalamandalam Harinarayanan acted as Balabhadra and Krishna, respectively. This particular scene narrates Balabhadra's angst when his sister Subhdara marries Arjuna. Soman came up with a powerful performance in the opening padam ‘Kuthravada…Kuthravada.' His best was in the padam ‘Yadavasikha mane,' which proved his ability to maintain the sthayi bhava. Harinarayanan's portrayal of Krishna as an obedient brother was a perfect blend of emotion and elegance.

Sadanam Shyamalan, Nedumpally Rammohan, Sadanam Sivadas, Kalamandalam Viswas and Kalamandalam Vishnu were the singers. Kalamandalam Balasundaran, Kalamandalam Nandakumar, Kalamandalam Venumohan and Kalamandalam Sreehari were the chenda artistes while Kalamandalam Rajnarayanan, Sadanam Devadas, Kalamandalam Venu and Kalamandalam Sudheesh were the maddalam artistes. The fete was organised by Natyapriya, Thrissur.