The staging of the unabridged version of ‘Balivadham’ gave many artistes the opportunity to see and perform some rarely enacted portions of the play.
Kottarakkara Thampuran’s ‘Balivadham’ Kathakali was staged at the Natakasala of the Sreekrishna temple at Amabalapuzha recently. The two-day performance was the culmination of a week-long workshop and training camp for young Kathakali artistes. The practice sessions concentrated on the not-so-popular parts of the ‘attakkatha.’
‘Balivadham’ is usually staged towards the end of a full-night Kathakali performance. However, in Ambalapuzha, the unabridged version of the play was staged and given a facelift by Kalamandalam Vasu Pisharodi who re-structured some scenes of the play.
Says Vasu Pisharodi: “It was a new experience for the young artistes because they got a chance to see or perform some rarely staged portions. And that was the intention of this workshop too.” The scene showing Jatayu’s entry is one of the sequences that has been reworked. Although this is not a very important scene in ‘Balivadham,’ Vasu Pisharodi says he stylised it with a few movements, some of which resemble that of the swan’s in ‘Nalacharitham.’ He also came up with a good ‘manodharma’ for Sugreeva wherein Sugreeva ruminates on his quarrel with Bali.
‘Balivadham’ is about the sibling rivalry between Bali and Sugreeva. In Thampuran’s attakatha, the story begins with Ravana’s preparations to take Rama to task for insulting Soorpanakha, Ravana’s sister. The story depicts Ravana kidnapping Sita and taking her to Lanka. It then shows Rama’s meeting with Hanuman and Surgeeva and how he helps Sugreeva by killing Bali. Usually the edited version of the play starts with Sugreeva’s entry.
Kalamandalam Shanmughan came up with a sterling performance on both days. On the first day, he played the angry Ravana and on the second day, he appeared as Sugreeva. Shanmughan said he was doing a ‘Chuvannathadi (Sugreeva) for the first time.
His energetic and emotional Ravana’s ‘thiranottam’ and ‘padam’ in the first scene succeeded in portraying the fury of the demon king. Although he strained a bit with heavy costumes and lengthy scenes, he successfully handled the ‘manodharma attam’ of Sugreeva, which narrates the reason behind the conflict between Bali and Sugreeva. Kalamandalam Hari R. Nair, a specialised ‘Chuvannathadi’ artiste, easily portrayed the two roles of Jatayu and Bali respectively. Kalamandalam Vijayakumar, who has won acclaim for his female roles, played Sugreeva during the latter part of the play. On the first day, he enacted the lead female role of Sita. Kalanilayam Vinod performed the role of Sree Rama.
Pathiyur Sankarankutty composed and led the music department. His evocative rendering of the padam ‘Viswanayaka’ (for Sugreeva) and ‘Orumozhi’ (for Bali) transported the audience to the world of the epics. Kalamandalam Jayaprakash and Kalamandalam Babu ably supported him. Kalamandalam Unnikrishnan, Krishnadas Sreekanth and Kalanilayam Ratheesh did well on the chenda. So did Kalanilayam Manoj and Kalanilayam Rakesh on the maddalam. Kalanilayam Manoj and Madhu Varanasi were the other main performers on stage.
The play was organised by Sandarsan Kathakali Vidyalaya, with the support of the Department of Culture, Government of India.