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Titans and master musicians of Kathakali showcase their acumen at fete in Kochi

Kalamandalam Gopi and Margi Vijayakumar in a scene from ‘Nalacharitham’

Kalamandalam Gopi and Margi Vijayakumar in a scene from ‘Nalacharitham’   | Photo Credit: G Prasad

The five-day festival was organised by Kathakali Aswadaka Sadas of Changampuzha Samskarika Kendram

A five-day Kathakali festival at Changampuzha Park, Edappally, was noted for the scrupulous selection of plays, actors and musicians all of which entranced spectators who sat through each recital from evening till almost midnight, with avid attention.

Kottayathu Thampuran’s Kalakeyavadham, staged on the opening day of the fete, had Kalamandalam Balasubrahmanyan in the role of Arjuna. Arjuna’s stately appearance with the slow-paced padam ‘Salajjoham...’ (I am ashamed) in Adantha tala (56 beats) was preceded by Lord Indra sending his charioteer Mathali to Kailasa to invite his son Arjuna for a visit to his kingdom in heaven.

While Kalamandalam Radhakrishnan as Indra and Kalamandalam Arun Warrier as Mathali were specific and tidy in the execution of the gestures and expressions, Balasubrahmanyan’s mastery over the angikabhinaya, rhythm and the tempos was clearly perceptible. Arun Warrier could have instilled a little more joie de vivre into the character. Slow-tempo padams pose a challenge even to veteran actors donning the role of Arjuna in this play. By the time Balasubrahmanyan moved on to the ashtakalasam (executed in slow tempo chamba tala of 40 beats) for the line, ‘sukruthikalil mumbanayi...’ (first amongst the virtuous), he seemed to be a wee bit exhausted and Arjuna’s expression of untold delight was missing.

Kalamandalam Balasubrahmanyan as Arjuna and
Kalamandalam Arun Warrier as Mathali in ‘Kalakeyavadham’

Kalamandalam Balasubrahmanyan as Arjuna and Kalamandalam Arun Warrier as Mathali in ‘Kalakeyavadham’   | Photo Credit: G Prasad

Kalamandalam Babu Namboodiri and Vinod gave exceptional vocal support in the first part while Kalamandalam Balasundaran’s chenda enlivened the sequences and the characters with dense strokes.

On the second evening, Sadanam Krishnankutty came on stage as the invincible Hanuman preparing himself for crossing the ocean to Lanka as the messenger of Rama. For this effervescent actor, the role and the context proved to be a boon.

Through the actor’s actions and expressions, the viewers could experience the expansiveness of the ocean, the fishermen throwing nets and catching fish and Hanuman’s leap across the sea denoted by Adantavattom (change in beat). Krishnankutty persuasively portrayed Hanuman’s encounters with demons like Surasa and Simhika. The tone of Hanuman’s gesture to the mountain Mynaaka who rises up from the ocean requesting him to rest for a while was visibly impolite.

Kottakkal Nandakumaran Nair as Ravana tersely enacted the meaning of the acclaimed sloka ‘Himakara himagarbha’, revealing Ravana’s longing for Sita. While Nandakumar revelled in Veera rasa (heroism) as Ravana, his meeting with Sita did not have the requisite amount of Sringara rasa (romance).

Sadanam Krishnankutty as Hanuman and Kottakal Ravikumar as Ravana

Sadanam Krishnankutty as Hanuman and Kottakal Ravikumar as Ravana   | Photo Credit: Prasad G

On the following day, Kalamandalam Gopi captivated the audience as King Nala adoring Damayanthi soon after their wedding. Right from the line, ‘Kuvalayavilochane’ (Nala addressing his beloved as lotus-eyed), set to slow tempo (56 beats) Adantha tala, the veteran actor spontaneously navigated the contours of Sringara rasa, anchoring on the sthayi bhava (enduring expression) and switching to the sanchari bhavas (transitory expressions) apposite to each and every metaphor. He exhaustively used his ‘upangas’ (eyes, lips and eye-brows) to portray several shades of ‘thrapa’ (shyness) in the line, “Eniyo nin thrapayonne enikku vairini manye”.

Thespian’s interpretation

Decoding poetic images into the language of Kathakali is no mean task. For the padam, ‘Dayithe Kel’, too Gopi laid emphasis on emotive acting with minimum movements of the body and the limbs. Margi Vijayakumar as Damayanthi supported him well. While Kalamandalam Hari R Nair presented Kali compellingly, Kalamandalam Shanmukhan portrayed the character of Pushkara convincingly. As Nala II, Kalamandalam Srikumar efficaciously articulated the character’s heroism during his encounter with Pushkara and the intensity of anguish when Nala had to eventually desert his consort in the wilderness.

Pathiyoor Sankarankutty’s singing carefully adhered to the visual semantics. Kalamandalam Unnikrishnan’s playing on the chenda and Prakasan’s fingering on the Maddalam was gracefully attuned to Gopi’s idiom.

On the penultimate day of the festival, Irayimman Thampi’s Utharaswayamvaram was staged with Kalamandalam Krishnakumar as Duryodhana and Peesappilly Rajeevan as Brihandala. The highlight of Suyodhana’s sringara padam was ‘ekalochanam...’. Duryodhana, while addressing Bhanumati invites her attention to a pair of cuckoos perching on a tree. One of the Chakravaka birds (mythical bird) mistakes the face of Bhanumati for the moon and fearing a separation looks at the queen angrily with one eye and simultaneously looks at his partner sorrowfully with the other eye. Krishnakumar, with an extraordinary theatrical fervour, presented this piece much to the delight of the audience.

Kottakkal Devadas as Thrigartha, with his imposing presence and profound articulation, enraptured the audience. He did lots of improvisation some of which enhanced the glow of the character. For instance while entering the kingdom of Virata, Thrigartha notices a half-lowered flag on the mast and he attributes this as homage to Keechaka whom Bhima in the guise of Valala had smothered to death. The scene involving the stealing of the cows was but a bit too protracted. Peesappilly Rajeevan as Brihannala did a pithy presentation along with Kalamandalam Adityan as Uttaran. They complemented each other in their impromptu conversation.

Kottakkal Madhu renditions enthralled his fans. Kalamandalam (Margi) Krishnadas and Venu Mohan empowered the movements and expressions of all the major characters on the chenda and they were ably assisted on the maddalam by Kalanilayam Manoj and others.

The festival concluded with Sriramapattabhishekam, by artists of Unnayi Warrier Smaraka Kalanilayam Kathakali troupe.

The event was held under the auspices of Kathakali Aswadaka Sadas, a part of Changampuzha Samskarika Kendram, Edappally.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 7:17:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/reviews/review-of-five-day-kathakali-fete-at-edappally/article30748790.ece

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