On wings of imagination

Kalamandalam Jishnu Prathap during a Koodiyattam recital of ‘Ashcharyachoodamani’ in Thiruvananthapuram   | Photo Credit: Hareesh N Nampoothiri

The ‘Ashokavanikangam’ episode from Shakthibhadran’s Ascharyachoodamani narrates the events following the abduction of Sita. In its initial sequence, Ravana recapitulates how he managed to separate Sita from her husband and abduct her to Lanka.

The solo act is pretty long with some action-packed sequences, and on a warm summer evening, a Koodiyattam performance of the play at Theerthapada Mandapam in the capital city proved quite taxing even for a young artiste like Kalamandalam Jishnu Prathap. However, he managed to present the part of Ravana with all its character intricacies in this ‘nirvahanam’ (retrospective prelude) scene.

The scene starts with Ravana explaining how he managed to make Sita enter his chariot. Disguised as Rama and Lakshmana respectively, he and his charioteer tell Sita that Ayodhya is under attack.

On the pretence of delivering timely help to Bharata and save their kingdom, they start their journey.

The real challenge for the actor is presenting the character of Mayarama (Ravana’s disguise as Rama),which reveals itself on different levels of imagination. This indeed calls for a thoughtful approach. Jishnu Prathap made a mark with his act.

Although Ravana, in the guise of Rama, managed to trick Sita into his chariot, he could make any physical contact with her.

He then tries to make Sita comfortable by painting a rosy picture of the future. In addition to Mayarama, the actor playing Ravana, in fact, takes on multiple roles here — like the kings preparing for battle, Bharata in a dismal state and so on. Sequences showing how the enemy kings equip themselves for the battle with weapons and how they proclaim war by sounding the drums were presented in great detail.

Jishnu Prathap presented the narratives methodically. He was supported by the percussion team, with Ratheesh Bhas and Kalamandalam Sajikumar and on the mizhavu, Kalanilayam Unnikrishnan on the edakka and Margi Vishishta on the cymbals. A little more imagination and coordination in some places would have made the experience even more enjoyable. As Mayarama, all advances by Ravana towards Sita prove futile. He wonders why his hands, which had defeated Indra and the mighty elephant Airavata, were unable to touch Sita, a mere human being.

It’s a sequence that requires a lot of effort on the part of the actor, and Jishnu instilled enough vigour in it to pull it off, especially in a scene that depicts a fight with the elephant. The play was staged under the aegis of Sangeet Natak Academy’s Kutiyattam Kendra.

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 7:51:45 PM |

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