P. SURYA RAO
`Malavikagnimitram' was one of the rare Sanskrit plays to be staged.
Scholars of yesteryear have often stated that Sanskrit dramas written by doyens such as Aswaghosha, Bhasa, Kalidas, Bhavabhuthi and Sudraka made for good reading but cannot be performed well on stage. Eventually, Sanskrit drama became almost non-existent.In the 20th century, Sanskrit drama was revived and made fit for enacting as a drama or a dance drama. Most of the credit for this revival goes to Kavalam Narayana Panikkar. Presently the vice president of Central Sangeet Natak Academy, in 1965 Panikkar established Sopanam institute and played a large part in reviving Sanskrit drama. He won accolades for staging successful dramas in India and abroad. Panikkar is the recipient of many prestigious awards like the Kalidas Samman award and Nandikar Puraskar.Mummaneni Subbarao Sidhardha Kala Peetham of Vijayawada presented Panikkar's production Malavikagnimitram at the Sidhardha auditorium. The drama began with an explicit introduction Kala Peetham's secretary Nagella Guruprasada Rao. The story deals with the love between king Agnimitra and Malavika. Too many twists in the long story made the audience writhe in their seats. However, some relief came from the character of Vidushaka who spoke and sang alternatively in Hindi and Sanskrit explaining the episodes. The other highlights were the music, the striking traditional costumes and the excellent performances by the artistes. R. Shaji, in particular, did justice to the role of Agnimitra. His stature, costume, singing and commanding presence on the stage were impressive. Girish, in the role of Vidushaka, also gave stellar performance. Sarita and Kavita in roles of Malavika and Dharini also showed their mettle. Panikkar directed the show and scored the music. Vocal support from Anil Kumar and Satish Kumar were appreciable. Instrumental credits go to Pramod (vaditram), Dr. Venugopu (flute) and Stephane Duncan (keyboard).