Dance Staged for nearly six hours, Duryodhana vadham, a dance drama in Kathakali was a treat to the audience.

For those uninitiated into the art of appreciating Kathakali, it is all sound and fury with frightfully painted artistes and billowing costumes gyrating with gesticulations. What more the language being alien, there is no way to decipher what is going on the stage. But to those of us who know the invaluable ancient art of story-telling through dance drama, Kathakali is a metaphor not just for Kerala, but the real India.

The genesis of Duryodhana vadham which has Kesavan Namboothiri in the lead is an artistic recreation of the annals of kings of a bygone era who rose and fell by their own volition (misdoings). Finally there is a divine retribution to each. A divine character (Lord Krishna) in their midst is the charioteer with the reins of their lives in His hand. Justice and injustice are juxtaposed in the form of Yudishtara and Duryodhana respectively. The moral code of conduct is flouted and all hell breaks loose. The dance drama begins with the Kauravas, led by Duryodhana doing the ‘shubha pravesham’ to Indraprastha the capital of their cousins, the Pandavas. The cloth screen held by two lads is an important element and serves as a curtain dividing the scenes and also heralds the entry of characters. There are certain folk aspects like drummers as well as the musicians who provide vocal support are all on stage. The vocalists also lend the cymbals and gong resonance, the tone and reach of their voices magnified with mikes; this again is a tradition where artistes are trained to throw their voice to the maximum sans mikes.

The conversation between Duryodhana and his brother Dushasana, both gaudily painted and dressed to the hilt, one with slightly sober eyes and the other with black visage, is mostly with dance mudras. The footwork by Dushasana went with the ruthlessness of his character while that of Duryodhana was milder but with egoistic pride.

The dialogues in the form of song help build up the character and introduce the persona to the audience. This was managed with artistic élan as both the characters get off the stage and into the audience trapped in the illusory Mayasabha. Duryodhana trips and falls which sparks off a bout of laughter from Panchali, a woman and queen of the Pandavas. All this is done in the midst of the audience while Yudhishtira, Bhima and Panchali are seated on the stage viewing their mired cousins.Shakuni’s dance and his pacifying Duryodhana who is arrogance personified was convincing to the core.

The game of dice with a background song in Ahiri raga evoked pathos in the audience. The concurrent Draupadi vastrapaharana again rising from within the audience was another piece of creative artistry which was handled beautifully by all the artistes on stage. The extolling song to Krishna by Panchali was full of expression through mudras and dance of course and Krishna’s response in the form of dance and drama was full of meaningful statements. The destruction of Duryodhana was handled by Kesavan with expertise. Staged for nearly six hours, under the aegis of Saparya under Keli-2013 series, this dance drama from Namboodiri’s school Parthasarathi Kathakali Yogam (Aranmula) was a visible treat at Rail Kalarang.

R.K