Of might and piety

Vinu Vasudevan
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Kathakali ‘Santhanagopalam' is an emotion-filled play that presents ample scope to perform for actors and musicians alike. Vinu Vasudevan

‘S anthanagopalam' Kathakali, penned by Mandavappalli Ittiraricha Menon, was performed at the Karthika Thirunal Theatre in Thiruvananthapuram recently. The four-and-a-half hour performance began with purappad and two melappadams, wherein up-and-coming chenda artistes Kalamandalam Venumohan and Kalamandalam Ravishankar proved their merit.

‘Santhanagopalam' narrates the tale of a Brahmin's devotion to Lord Krishna. The underlying emotion of the story is bhakthi, and the attakatha depicts the sorrow of the Brahmin whose eight children died soon after birth. The story begins soon after his ninth child dies. When the Brahmin's wife is pregnant with their tenth child, Arjuna promises to do all he can to keep the child from death and takes a vow to end his life if he fails in his mission. Eventually Lord Krishna restores all 10 children to the Brahmin and his wife.

Although Arjuna appears throughout the play, the lead role is that of the Brahmin. The late Vazhenkada Kunju Nair and Kalamandalm Padmanabhan Nair perfected the role of the Brahmin, each with improvisations and modifications in their presentations of the role. Meanwhile, Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair, Kalamandalam Ramankutti Nair, and Kalamandalam Gopi perfected the character of Arjuna. Perfectly poised

In this staging of the play, Kalamandalam Balasubramanian, a master at pacha veshams, stole the show as Arjuna. Right from his first padam ‘Nadha bhaval charana…' Balasubramanian's mudras and bhavas were perfectly poised. In the second scene, where Arjuna meets the lamenting Brahmin, the artiste's improvisations were beautiful. His expertise was evident in the short but noteworthy manodharma attam between Arjuna and the Brahmin as was his acting in the second scene when the Brahmin curses Arjuna. His depiction of the ‘soothikagriham' (delivery room) was laced with comedy. However, the artiste was at his best in the final scene where both Krishna and Arjuna meet the Brahmin and restore his children to him.

Veteran artiste Mathoor Govindan Kutty, who specialises in female roles, presented the role of the Brahmin, which is in itself quite challenging a role because it requires a lot of physicality and spontaneity while acting. His presentation of the padams ‘Ha..Ha..Karomi…' and ‘Mooda athi prauda mam ninnute...' was superb. The role of Krishna was enacted by Kalamandalam Sucheendranath. Margi Harivalsan enacted the role of Brahmana patni.

Play of emotions

This attakatha has several emotional high points. So there is ample scope for musicians to perform. Palanad Divakaran and Kalamandalam Hareesh Nambudiri sang the lyrics with suitable ragas. Although their rendering of the melappadam was not up to the mark, the rest of their performance was well-executed. Margi Ratnakaran and Kalamandalam Rakesh played the maddalam.

The staging of the play was organised by Drisyavedi as part of its monthly programme.



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