In full splendour

A scene from 'Nivathakavacha Kalakeyavadham'   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

The epic Mahabharatha is the basis for several of Kathakali’s most famous attakathas. Kottayathu Thampuran, who had given a new dimension and focus to writing and choreographing Kathakali plays, wrote four great attakathas from the Vanaparvam of the Mahabharatha. Bhimasena is the hero of two of the plays, while Yudhishthira and Arjuna are the heroes in the other two.

‘Nivathakavacha Kalakeyavadham’ is the story in which Arjuna features in the lead. Vayaskara Aryan Mooss also wrote the play ‘Duryodhanavadham’ based on the Mahabharata, in which anti-hero Duryodhana is the central character. These two plays were presented at a ‘Kathakali Utsavam’ in Palakkad recently, in which over 100 artistes took to the stage in major and minor roles.

‘Nivathakavacha Kalakeyavadham’

The play was performed in full on the first day of the fete. This play is regarded as one of the most highly stylised ones among the attakathas. Each and every movement of an artiste is choreographed perfectly to blend with rhythm, making it an acid test for any performer. The nine-hour-long play begins with Lord Indra’s invitation to his son Arjuna to visit him in heaven, after Arjuna receives the divine weapon Pasupatha. Indra sends his chariot driver Mathali to bring his son to heaven. Arjuna spends a few days there and faces some emotional setbacks.

Arjuna was performed by Kalamandalam Balasubramanian and he once again proved his mastery over stylised and challenging roles. He won the hearts of the audience with his perfectly poised mudras. Sadanam Bhasi dexterously performed two roles – that of Mathali and Nandikeswaran. As Mathali, one of his masterpiece roles, Bhasi was perfection personified. Kalamandalam Pradeep enacted the role of the second Arjuna with élan. His crystal clear mudra delivery and textbook style acting was the highlight of the evening. Kottakkal Rajumohan, an artiste from PSV Natyasangham, donned the role of Urvashi. Although Urvashi appears only in two scenes, those are important to the narrative. He started off well in the first padam but couldn’t sustain the momentum in the second padam.

Kottakkal Pradeep (Indrani and Bheeru), Kalamandalam Thulasi (Nivathakavachan), Kalamandalam Shibi (Vajrabahu), and Kalamandalam Ananthu (Vajrakethu) were some of the other artistes who performed. Kalamandalam Babu Namboothiri led the music for the play.


The play was presented with almost all the important scenes, beginning with the pathinja padam of Duryodhana, ‘Parvana sasi vadane...’ Kalamandalam Soman enacted the title role of Duryodhana. Soman impressed with his power-packed movements and perfectly placed kalasams. He shared the stage with an equally impressive Kottakkal Devadas as Dussasana. Together the actors delivered a high voltage performance, reminiscent of the stunning old kathi-thadi combination of Kalamandalam Ramankutti Nair and Vellinezhi Nanu Nair. Kalamandalam Vijayakumar’s Panchali was also well executed.

Kalamandalam Manoj (Duryodhanan) and Kalamandalam Neeraj (Dussasanan) also set the stage on fire in the last part of the play with their mighty roars and energetic footwork. These two, along with Kottakkal Unnikrishnan (Sreekrishnan), enthralled the crowd in the scene where Lord Krishna comes to Duryodhana's court as a messenger of the Pandavas. Kalamandalam. Krishnakumar presented the role of Raudrabheema in his typical fashion. His execution of the fight with Dussasana was interesting to watch.

Kalamandalam Chinosh Balan (Yudhisthira), Sadanam Suresh (Sakuni), Kottakkal Manoj (Bheemasena and Dhritharashtra) were other artistes. Kalanilayam Rajeevan impressed with his outstanding rendering of the pathinja padam in Padi. Nedumpalli Rammohan’s execution of the padam ‘Sodaranmare...’ was brilliant.

The programmes were organised by Palakkad Kathakali Trust.

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Printable version | Mar 7, 2021 4:50:40 PM |

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