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How the mighty fall

Sadanam Bhasi as Kaali and Sadanam Manikantan as Darikan in ‘Kaali’

Sadanam Bhasi as Kaali and Sadanam Manikantan as Darikan in ‘Kaali’   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

‘Kaali’, a new play directed by Sadanam Harikumar, which has been adapted from Indian mythology, also touches upon the discrimination of Dalits

Sadanam Harikumar is one of the most prolific playwrights in contemporary Kathakali. His 18th play, Kaali, also directed by him, made its début at the 67th annual day celebrations of Gandhi Seva Sadanam Kathakali Academy, Pathiripala at Palakkad, recently.

The story is an adaptation of Darikan’s death at the hands of Goddess Kaali. While Darikan and Kaali are from mythology, the other characters are the writer’s creation. The play is also a commentary on the social discrimination of Dalits.

Darikan, the demon king, emboldened by the fact that only a daughter of Lord Siva will be able to kill him, unleashes a reign of terror. From the sky he happens to see a Dalit woman, Santhala, and forces his attention on her. Santhala is a Siva devotee but Darikan overrules her objections. Shanthala runs to her brother, Jhalakan, for protection but Darika kills him and overpowers her. Angry and humiliated, Santhala immolates herself, praying to be reborn as Lord Siva’s daughter and be the cause of Darikan’s death. Lord Siva, hearing about the misdeeds of Darikan, creates Kaali and orders her to kill Darika.

Swagger in the walk

Sadanam Manikantan as Darikan, a Kathi character, and Sadanam Bhasi as Kaali stood out in their roles. Throughout the performance, Manikantan maintained the swagger and arrogance of the powerful. Santhala by Sadanam Sreenath looked a little subdued when facing Darikan’s advances but did well in the later scene when Santhala seeks Siva’s intervention in a vengeful mood. Bhasi’s footwork is always a delight to watch and he didn’t disappoint. The pada purappad, or battle drill, where Kaali prepares to challenge Darika to war was a brisk rhythmic delight. Sadanam Vipin Chandran as Jhalakan and Sadanam Nithin Prasad as Siva were competent in their roles. Two Sadanam students — Akshay and Krishnaswaraj — appeared as the Brahmins being persecuted by Darikan.

Sadanam Manikantan as Darikan in ‘Kaali’

Sadanam Manikantan as Darikan in ‘Kaali’   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Vocals were led by Harikumar himself. He was assisted by Sadanam Sivadasan and Sadanam Jyothish Babu. The lyrics in pure Malayalam were easy to follow and the music was mellifluous. The padam ‘Karathalam kondu’ in Subhapantuvarali was especially pleasing. The action-packed scenes were well supported by the percussion team led by Sadanam Ramakrishnan and Sadanam Jithin on the chenda and Sadanam Devadasan and Sadanam Jayarajan on the maddalam.

Eye-catching costume

Harikumar is not shy of innovations and Kaali is no exception. In nritta or pure dance, choreography for Darikan after his thiranottam, as well as the iratti kalasam in the slow-paced padinja padam, had new elements. But it was the costume that captured the eye first. The make-up and headgear of Kaali, though different from the traditional look of Bhadrakali in Dakshayagam, was impressive. However, the blue facial make-up of Jhalakan looked out of place. Whatever be the logic, it would have been more prudent to stick to the conventional green of pacha characters.

In the battle scene between Kaali and Darikan, too many props were used one after the other — bow and arrow, sword and shield, mace, spear and finally a trident. Kathakali’s language is most impressive when conveyed through the actor’s body language with as few stage props as possible. The battle scene could have used some editing and make the entire three-and-a-half hour play tighter.

Overall, Kaali is an entertaining production from the house of Sadanam and will certainly be appreciated by viewers who are inclined towards fast-paced stories.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 8:52:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/reviews/kaali-directed-by-sadanam-harikumar-touches-upon-the-discrimination-of-dalits/article30623391.ece

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