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Mother and son

S.P. Suresh Sreekandeswarath
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Kathakali ‘Krishnaleela,' a relatively new attakatha, has gained many stages on account of its excellent theatrical treatment and evocative lyrics. S.P. Suresh Sreekandeswarath

T he staging of ‘Krishnaleela,' an attakatha written six years ago by Venugopal, was a novel experience for Kathakali rasikas at Parakkadavu, Ernakulam district. ‘Krishnaleela,' a relatively short play, lasting only three hours, was noteworthy for its excellent theatrical treatment and evocative lyrics. The play provides ample opportunities for pakarnnattam, where the actor has the challenge of portraying a wide range of characters as well as emotions.

Three characters

Only three characters appear on stage and the story unfolds through these three – Devaki, Krishna and Yashoda.

After slaying Kamsa, Krishna frees Devaki, his birth mother, from Kamsa's prison. Krishna yearns for her love and affection, something that he missed out while growing up under the care of his foster mother, Yashoda. Meanwhile, Devaki, who gave birth to eight children, has never had the opportunity to mother any of them. Even when she meets Krishna, she sees him not as her son but as the incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

She reveals her plight to Krishna, falls at his feet and prostrates before him. Stricken with guilt and remorse at not being able to protect her in her time of need, Krishna too sits with her on the bare floor. He apologises for neglecting her and with a soul-touching embrace he tries to bring her back to the world of motherhood. When Devaki says that she is heartbroken that she missed out on her son's growing up years, Krishna brings Yashoda, his foster mother, to Mathura to recount tales of his childhood pranks.

Yashoda narrates to Devaki stories of Krishna's feats such as Poothanamoksham, Ulookhabandhanam, the killing of Bakasura, Kaliyamardanam, Govardhanodharanam and so on. Devaki is overwhelmed with wonder, happiness and even sorrow at the tales. Towards the end of the play, Yashoda's return to Ambadi is also portrayed.

This encounter between Devaki and Yashoda is a deviation from the original story in the Bhagavatam, where the duo meet at the Syamanthapanchaka theertha only much later on. Here the playwright takes poetic licence to enhance the drama of the play and uses the meeting between the two mothers to bring back the exuberance of Krishna's childhood.

Skilled abhinaya

Chambakkara Vijayan enacted the role of Devaki. With skilled abhinaya he transported the spectators through the highs of love, affection, grief and bliss. Kalamandalam Shanmukhan as Yashoda smoothly connected all the links with his excellent abhinaya. His impersonations (pakarnnattam) had a certain charm and power. The precision and vigour that he lent to the character were noteworthy. Poothana's agony when she breathes her last, the wonder that Yashoda witnesses in Krishna's mouth, the after-effect of the ‘Ulookhabandhana,' the killing of Bakasura who comes to kill Krishna disguised as a crane, Krishna's dance on the hood of the serpent Kaliya, lifting Govardhana and so on were well depicted by the artiste. Kalamandalam Mukundan enacted the role of Krishna.

In the end, Yashodha thinks it is inappropriate to stay further and realises that she no longer has any claim on her child, and with a heavy heart she gets ready to return to Ambadi. Now Krishna is in a dilemma. Can he forsake one mother for another? But he must. And at last Devaki's love triumphs.

Kalamandalam Jayaprakash and Kalamandalam Vishnu rendered the padams with an astonishing richness of feeling and imagination. Chenda and edakka by Kalamandalam Srikanth and maddalam by Kalamandalam Hariharan, added to the charm of the play. The programme was held under the aegis of Natyadharmi, a cultural organisation in Parakkadavu, in association with EMS Smaraka Grandhasala, Parakkadavu.

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