Broadening visual narratives

Ferdinand and Miranda

Ferdinand and Miranda   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement


A recent recital of Kodungalloor Marumakan Raja’s adaptation of The Tempest showcased the potential of Kathakali in absorbing new themes and characters

For Indian dance and theatre traditions, form rather than content is the key-determinant of their identity. Content is more often than not a springboard for the actor to unfold his/her artistry. Kathakali is no exception. However, several poets and scholars over the last century have attempted to provide a fresh dimension to Kathakali by bringing in themes adopted from illustrious literary works of the East and the West.

The late Kodungalloor Marumakan Raja, a connoisseur of Kathakali, adapted excerpts of Shakespeare’s The Tempest into a Kathakali play decades ago.

That adaptation of The Tempest was recently presented at Kodungalloor Kovilakam, Thrissur, for a select audience.

Spread over 10 scenes, The Tempest begins with Lord Prospero’s dramatic monologue about his daughter followed by Ariel’s thiranokku (introductory scene). The character of Prospero is an unusual amalgam of poise, detachment and concern.

Kalamandalam Manoj as Ariel in The Tempest

Kalamandalam Manoj as Ariel in The Tempest   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Kalamandalam Neeraj, donning pazhuppu make-up (akin to the colour of the setting sun), enacted the role with finesse as he captured Prospero’s thoughts and emotions. Kalamandalam Manoj portrayed the agile yet subservient Ariel whose actions dictate the dramatic turn of events. Although Ariel’s make-up resembled that of Hanuman’s in Kathakali, minuscule changes in make-up coupled with coloured costumes, offered the character a distinctive identity. Vattam vechukalasam in mid-tempo were profusely employed to enliven the sequences. Rhythmic variations and tempo-transitions added spice to some of the scenes.

Kalamandalam Arun Warrier as Ferdinand depicted the predicament of the Prince who is trapped on an island. Arun presented with restraint Ferdinand’s fortuitous meeting with Miranda and their romance.

Although Haripriya Namboodiri as Miranda had ample room to enact her angst towards her father and to portray the shades of sringara towards Ferdinand, she was, unfortunately, not in her element that day.

Kalamandalam Vysakh as Alonso in Kathi make-up made his ephemeral presence effective by means of broad articulations.

Kalamandalam Neeraj as Prospero

Kalamandalam Neeraj as Prospero   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Protracted scenes are a bane of The Tempest. From four-and-a-half hours, it should have ideally been edited to a maximum of three hours.

Extensive rehearsals would have helped the actors and the accompanying artistes develop a sync on stage, while a more refreshing choice of ragas would have added flavour to the play. Although the padams were intelligible, some of the lines recited were devoid of emotion.

This may partly be a problem posed by the narrative-structure.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 11:57:45 AM |

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