‘Naishadhanandam’ Koodiyattam recital in Thiruvananthapuram came up with an interesting interpretation of the Nala-Damayanthi story

A scene from Naishadhanandam Koodiyattam

A scene from Naishadhanandam Koodiyattam   | Photo Credit: KP Sukumaran

Ammannur Rajaneesh Chakyar enacted the events convincingly and with attention to fine detail

On the Koodiyattam stage, the Nala-Damayanthi episode progresses to a happy ending in a tone entirely different from that depicted in Kathakali. In the former, it is the fire god who proclaims the sanctity of Damayanti’s intention in bringing about the speedy arrival of King Rituparna in Kundina. . And the god appears in person before the couple as a witness.

However, even this timely intervention fails to dispel doubts in Nala’s mind. This leads to Damayanthi’s attempting self-immolation. Nala dissuades her from the act and clarifies that vicious Kali’s polluting presence in his mind weakened him and professes that his actions should befit a king whose conduct should be appreciated by the people too.

The explanation wins Damayanthi’s approval. During their subsequent conversation, Kali, the arch-villain in the episode, enters in a miserable physical state owing to Damayanthi’s curse. As soon as Nala masters from Rituparna the trick of winning the game of dice, Kali escapes from the king’s body. The effect of the deadly poison of Karkotaka, the divine serpent that bit Nala, also subsides in due course.

Agreeing to Nala’s entreaty, Damayanthi withholds the effect of her curse on Kali. In return, Kali proclaims that his evil influence would not affect anyone who remembers the story of Nala, Rituparna and Karkotaka. In tune with the common practice in Sanskrit dramas, the play ends on this pleasant note.

Ammannur Rajaneesh Chakyar’s portrayal of Kali was outstanding during a performance in the capital city. Kali waits with perseverance for years to find at least a slight blemish in the noble hero’s character or conduct.

A scene from Naishadhanandam Koodiyattam

A scene from Naishadhanandam Koodiyattam   | Photo Credit: KP Sukumaran

Ignoring the vagaries of weather, he hides himself on a ‘taanni’ tree near Nala’s palace and closely watches the pious king. One day, he notes that the king fails to clean his heel properly before retiring to sleep and Kali then sneaks into Nala’s body.

Ammannur Rajaneesh Chakyar enacted these events convincingly and with attention to fine detail such as Kali’s suffering in the scorching summer and the first drop of rain falling on his body.

The presentation of Nala and Damayanthi by Sooraj Nambiyar and Kalamandalam Prasanti respectively was impeccable. Mizhavu, played dexterously by Kalamandalam Ratesh Bhas, Margi Sajikumar and Margi Mahesh, was duly complemented by Harikrishnan on the edakka.

Naishadhanandam is a welcome addition to the Koodiyattam repertoire. The Sanskrit play is relatively less-known in the genre, but Unnayi Warrier’s Kathakali version of it exhibits inter-textuality.

Attention to detail

The play’s adaptation into the Koodiyattam format, including conceptualisation, choreography and direction, has been done laudably by Koodiyattam artiste Kalamandalam Girija. In ensuring dramatic effect throughout, designing the ‘aharyam’ (make-up-cum-costume) for Kali for the first time in Koodiyattam and making the general appearance of the feminine character aesthetically appealing, she has followed the dictums of her guru, Painkulam Raman Chakyar, who revolutionised the art form in several respects.

The performance was held under the aegis of the Sangeet Natak Academy’s Kutiyattam Kendra, Thiruvanathapuram.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2020 4:18:02 AM |

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