Dance

When the sons of Vayu met

A Kathakali performance on an episode from Kalyanasougandhikam

A Kathakali performance on an episode from Kalyanasougandhikam   | Photo Credit: R_RAVINDRAN;R_RAVINDRAN - R _ RAVINDRAN

Bhima will get the fragrant flower that Draupadi so desired but not without tackling elder brother Hanuman

As part of its ongoing series, ‘Pandavayanam,’ drawn from the four classics of Kathakali composed by Kottayam Thampuran in the eighteenth century, Uthareeyam, the cultural organisation, staged an episode from Kalyanasougandhikam, a favourite with Kathakali aswadhakas.

The performance centred on the meeting between the two sons of Vayu — Hanuman and Bhima — when the latter goes in search of the divine flower sougandhikam.

The opening sequence featured Bhima (Kalamandalam Srikumar) and Draupadi (Sadanam Sadanandan) in a romantic interlude in the verdant Gandhamadana mountain where the Pandavas are living out a part of their exile. Borne by a zephyr, a sougandhika flower drifts into Draupadi’s hands. Captivated by its beauty and fragrance, Draupadi requests Bhima to seek out and bring these flowers to her. Bhima sets out, following the direction of the scented breeze.

En route, he witnesses many wondrous as well as disturbing sights in the forest. As he hacks his way through the dense foliage with his club, the animals and birds of the jungle flee in panic.

A lesson for Bhima

The thunderous noise disturbs Hanuman (Sadanam Bhasi), who is meditating on Lord Rama. Hanuman decides to test Bhima and quell his pride in his prodigious strength. Taking the form of a weak, aged monkey, he blocks Bhima’s path, stating that he is too feeble to stir and that Bhima should move his tail aside, if he wishes to proceed. After Bhima’s efforts prove futile, Hanuman reveals his true identity as well as the gigantic form he assumed when crossing the ocean to Lanka. When Bhima falls senseless at the sight, Hanuman revives and blesses him, promising to grace Arjuna’s flag in the forthcoming war. He also directs him to Kubera’s garden from which the flowers can be gathered.

Despite Draudapi’s appearance in a brief role, Sadanandan made every moment count through restrained, delicate gestures. Srikumar’s measured grace reflecting his standing as a prime disciple of Kalamandalam Padmanabhan Nair, imbued Bhima’s movements with power. Bhasi’s Hanuman, an anticipated signature act, held you riveted, with the artiste’s litheness, alarcha and engaging demeanour scoring a hit with the children present.

The pervasive presence of wind god Vayu was subtly woven into the narrative, with verses describing his manifestation as a cool, gentle breeze serving to remind you of the father of the two protagonists. Among the highlights were the eratti, a blend of mudra abhinaya and nritta at the end of the Sankarabharanam padam and the pakarnattam during the famed Ajagarakabalitham episode depicting a python crushing an elephant which is simultaneously attacked and killed by a lion. Another highlight was the footwork in the ashta kalaasam choreographed by the legendary Kizhpadam Kumaran Asan, guru of Bhasi, in the ‘Manasi Mama’ charanam. Noteworthy too, was the dialogue between the siblings, the affectionate Hanuman and the respectful Bhima.

Kalamandalam Babu Nambuthiri (ponnani) and Kottakal Santhosh Kumar (singidi) provided top drawer vocals in Sankarabharanam, Mukhari and Madhyamavati, richly textured with emotive gamakas. Vast stretches of solo percussion by Sadanam Ramakrishnan (chenda) and Kalamandalam Venu (maddalam) held the fort during many crucial episodes, magnifying the dramatic elements. Kalamandalam Satheesan’s make up skillsand the costumes by Kottakal Kunjiraman, Rajan and Ramakrishnan contributed significantly to the aesthetics of the aharya.

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 2:05:48 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/dance/a-kathakali-performance-on-an-episode-from-kalyanasougandhikam/article19173950.ece

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