Natanakairali plans to fully present the play ‘Asokavanikhangam Koodiyattam,’ stage by stage, as a series.
Patrons and practitioners of various traditional art forms are duty bound to explore new vistas in their respective fields and also preserve, foster and transfer the centuries-old, unedited versions to the next generation, so that they can percolate, unadulterated, to posterity.
In this context, it is commendable to note that Natanakairali, a research and performing centre for traditional arts, based at Irinjalakuda, has embarked on a mission to fully present the play ‘Asokavanikhangam Koodiyattam,’ stage by stage, as a series, over a period of time.
The first part, which comprised the Purappad by Ravana and the succeeding Nithyakriya, was presented by Sooraj Nambiar.
‘Asokavanikhangam’ is the fifth act of the play ‘Aascharyachoodaamani’ by Sakthibhadra, the playwright from Kerala who was a disciple of Sankaracharya. This act is a challenge as far as a performer is considered, as it demands great skill, be it in the expression of the eyes or ‘pakarnattam’ (same actor presenting different characters) or facial expressions.
An infatuated Ravana
The act depicts Ravana trying to charm Sita by impressing her with his power and valour.
This act derives its name from Asokavanika, the garden of Ravana where Sita was kept as a captive, as a major part of this act takes place in the garden. In this scene, an emotionally charged infatuated Ravana mistakes the moonlight for sunlight. He angrily recollects having told the Sun god not to enter his garden so that the flora does not wither away.
Finally, Ravana realises his mistake. Sooraj portrayed the role comfortably and his acting, especially where Ravana realises the fact that it was the moon and not the sun that was shining, was commendable.
He beautifully danced the steps of the nritta aspects of the nithyakriya part. In fact, through this nithyakriya, in which the performer pays obeisance, first to Siva and Parvathy, then to the Dikpalakas, that is gods and goddesses of different directions, and also to all the living and non-living beings of the three worlds, one could see the catholicity of the Chakyars.
Kalamandalam Rajeev, Narayanan Nambiar and Hariharan played the mizhavu. Kalanilayam Unnikrishnan supported them on the edakka and Aparna Nangiar handled the thalam.