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Picture of devotion

Vinu Vasudevan
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Kathakali ‘Lavanasuravadham' was staged at Karalmanna by a group of enthusiastic women actors and singers. Vinu Vasudevan

K aralmanna, a small village near Ottappalam in Palakkad District, is famous for its rich artistic tradition and discerning enthusiasts of Kathakali. This Valluvanadan village has produced several maestros in Kathakali such as late Thekkinkattil Ravunni Menon, Vazhenkada Kunju Nair and so on. Thus, this village has a unique place in the history of Kathakali.

The tradition continues in Karalmanna with a new generation of enthusiasts who have taken up the responsibility of maintaining the link to Kathakali by conducting performances and workshops at regular intervals. Vazhenkada Kunju Nair Memorial Trust, a three-decade-old organisation, has been at the forefront of these activities.

The latest event, a staging of ‘Lavanasuravadham' Kathakali, was held to commemorate the legendary Vazhenkada Kunju Nair's debut on stage, according to the Malayalam calendar.

What was remarkable about the show was that but for the percussion artistes all the performers on stage were women.

‘Lavanasuravadham,' an excerpt from the Ramayana, penned by Palakkad Cheri Amrita Sasthrikkal, depicts Hanuman's intense devotion and loyalty towards Lord Rama, Sita and their sons. It deals with episodes following the pregnant Sita's banishment from Ayodhya, when she takes refuge in Valmiki's ashram where she brings up her twins Kusan and Lavan.

The years roll by and the twins grow up in the forest under the watchful eyes of Valmiki and Sita. One day, the twins capture a golden horse wandering in the forest. Little do they realise that it belongs to their father, Rama.

Rama's younger brother Shatrughna's request to release the horse goes unheeded. When Shatrughna is defeated in the battle that ensues, Rama sends the faithful Hanuman to persuade the youngsters to release the horse.

Emotional encounter

Hanuman realises that the boys are none other than Sita's sons and so after a half-hearted battle he surrenders. He is taken as a captive to Sita who immediately tells her sons to release him. It is an emotional encounter between Sita and Hanuman and finally Hanuman returns to Ayodhya with the horse.

‘Bhakthi' is the underlying emotion of the three-hour-long play. Although, Hanuman is the central character in the play he appears towards the middle of the play. The only female character in the play is Sita. Although none of the performers were professionals, they put in their best to come up with a spirited recital.

The pick of the evening was Arya Parappur's Kusan and Deepa Palanad's music. Arya's perfect mudras and good footwork were the highlight of her performance. Arya's performance reached the zenith in the battle scene with Shathrughna and Hanuman.

Anishma enacted Lavan. Although she looked a little weak towards the end, she did a good job. Being disciples of the same guru, Kalamandalam Venkitaraman, both Arya and Anishma had a rapport that enhanced the recital.

Veteran Sasikala Devidas, who essayed Sita, started her Kathakali career more than three decades ago as a ‘sthreevesham' artiste. She appeared to be a little tense in the opening scene. She was able to get her act together in the last scene when she performed the padam ‘Hantha Hantha Hanumane...' Another senior performer Parvathi Menon enacted Hanuman. In this play, Hanuman's ‘sthayi bhava' is devotion that is tinged with a playfulness and indulgence towards the twins. Parvathi could not maintain that emotion though her body language and gestures looked impressive. Shathrughna's role was donned by Saranya.

Deepa Palanad's captivating music played a significant role in elevating the aesthetic standard of the recital. Her rendering of the padams ‘Anupamagunanakum' in Yadukulakamboji and ‘Sukhamo Devi...' in Nattakkurunji was soul stirring.

Meera Ram Mohan ably supported her. Sadanam Ramakrishna on the chenda and Sadanam Rajeesh on the maddalam aesthetically complemented the artistes.

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