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Powerful portrayal

A scene from ‘Naganandam’ Koodiyattam

A scene from ‘Naganandam’ Koodiyattam   | Photo Credit: KP Sukumaran

Performances were spot-on in the presentation of a segment from the Sanskrit play ‘Naganandam’

Connoisseurs of Koodiyattam in the capital city were treated to a performance of the prologue (Pravesankam) to the third act of emperor Harshavadhana’s Sanskrit play, Naganandam. Skilfully adapted and directed for the Koodiyattam stage by thespian Kalamandalam K Rama Chakyar, it was presented under his leadership by his disciples.

The cue to undertake this venture was provided to Rama Chakyar decades ago by his illustrious preceptor-cum-mentor, the legendary Painkulam Rama Chakyar. While Painkulam standardised and directed the presentation of the act, Rama Chakyar, former head of the Koodiyattam Department at his alma mater, followed it up with the prologue of that act. This resulted in a welcome addition to the Koodiyattam repertoire a scene full of humour in tune with what Painkulam did with Bodhayana’s Bhagavadajjukam, projecting resplendence of humour at several levels.

The performance began with the ritualistic entry of a debauchee (the Vitan) called Sekharakan and his henchman (Chetan), both in an inebriated state.

The Vitan proclaims his complacence in his unparalleled achievements. Balabhadra, Krishna’s elder brother, and Kama, the lord of love, are his favourite gods. His beloved is Navamalika, the charming palace maid. The lustrous headgear indicates his respectability. Chetan serves him liquor intermittently and helps himself, collecting it in his cupped palm.

A scene from ‘Naganandam’ Koodiyattam

A scene from ‘Naganandam’ Koodiyattam   | Photo Credit: KP Sukumaran

The premise of the story is the celebrations held subsequent to the wedding of Jeemoothavahana, king of the Vidhyadharas, and Malayavathi, daughter of the Siddha king, Visvaavasu. A grand banquet has been planned and Navamalika is deputed to supervise the decorations in the royal garden. The Vitan and the Chetan eagerly await Navamalika’s arrival in the garden. Meanwhile, Aathreya, the royal clown (Vidooshaka), arrives in the garden covering himself from head to toe in silk shawls to escape being disturbed by the bees who were attracted by the perfume from his body. The Vitan mistakes him for Navamalika and embraces him. Navamalika, who initially misunderstands the Vitan, later joins him in ridiculing Vidooshaka. They force him to taste liquor and to fall at Navamalika’s feet. However, her magnanimity stops him from doing so.

Controlled performance

Rama Chakyar’s presentation showcased his astonishing control on the spoken word and dexterity in handling the art form. His elaborate narration of the context in which the events took place served as a useful backdrop.

Kalamandalam Sangeeth Chakyar essayed the role of the Vitan, blending realism and stylisation in desirable proportion. While acting as an incorrigible degenerate, he avoided being indecent. His voice was sonorous with laudable power. Contextually-appropriate and imaginative innovations he built into the presentation proved refreshing. For instance, he used the flowers collected from his headgear for sanctifying the liquor intended for Vidooshaka, an honourable Brahmin. Another memorable scene was his endeavour to seat Navamalika as close as possible to the pitiable Brahmin for whom close contact with women was thoroughly repugnant. His transformational acting (‘pakarnaattam’) as Navamalika was excellent.

Kalamandalam Charu Agaru and Kalamandalam Krishnendu impressed as Chetan and Navamalika. The latter did full justice to Painkulam’s concept of aesthetic as well as physical charm indispensable for female characters on the Koodiyattam stage.

The quatrains in Malayalam composed by seasoned Kathakali actor Nelliyodu Vasudevan Nambudiri were in conformity with the texture of Vidooshaka slokas. The percussion was handled by Rajan and Sanjeev Vijayan (mizhavu), Sudheesh (thimila) and Jayalakshmi (rhythm), all alumni of Kalamandalam.

The performance was organised by Kutiyattam Kendra of Sangeeth Natak Akademi, New Delhi.

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 1:23:03 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/reviews/koodiyattam-performance-based-on-naganandam-play-in-the-capital-city/article29574273.ece

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