Theatre

Conquering pride and vanity

A scene from 'Kiratham 'Kathakali........Photo: C.Ratheesh kumar   | Photo Credit: C.RATHEESH KUMAR

‘Kiratham' Kathakali was the first of a series of programmes to be staged as part of Drisyavedi's 16th ‘Kerala Rangakalotsavam.' The staging of the play in Thiruvananthapuram was a pleasant experience for aficionados owing to the light mood of the story. In ‘Kiratham,' the emphasis is on Lokadharmi and the text is easily comprehensible to the layman due to the use of simple Malayalam. In the early days though, ‘Kiratham' was usually the last story of a night-long performance. It has, however, recently started gaining importance as one that makes Kathakali understandable to the layman.

The play narrates an incident from the Mahabharatha when the Pandava prince Arjuna undergoes a penance to please Lord Siva and win the right to use certain weapons to prepare himself for the impending war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. Finally, Siva decides to reward his devotee but not before a test to asses if Arjuna is really worthy of the boon Siva plans to grant him. So Siva and Parvathy disguise themselves as forest dwellers (Kattalan and Kattalastree). In due course, Arjuna is cured of his arrogance and vanity and Siva grants him the boon he was seeking by giving him the mighty Pasupathasthra.

The show started with Arjuna's padam ‘Paramesa pahi pahi mam,' seeking refuge in Lord Shiva to redeem the Pandavas from their ill-fate. The padam was followed by an attam describing the surrounding forest.

Arjuna encounters a lion and as he is about to take aim with his bow and arrow, he remembers that the lion is a vehicle of the Goddess and refrains from doing so. Finally Arjuna reaches the bank of River Ganga where people are taking a bath to purify themselves of their sins. He finds a suitable place at the foothills of Mount Kailas to do his penance. He takes a bath, applies ashes all over his body, ties his hair, and begins his penance.

Experiments

‘Kiratham's' Arjuna was subjected to many experiments with respect to costume during the mid-twentieth century; the time when Kathakali started to gain a foothold among the masses. First it was a Pachha vesham. Then Arjuna was dressed like a mendicant – more like Parasurama, and later it reverted to Paccha. Kalamandalam Ratheesan donned the role of Arjuna with ease and his attam was a welcome change from the usual ‘sikhinisalabham.'

Injakkadu Ramachandran Pillai as Kattalan excelled in his role. His Kattalan is reminded of Bhasmasura, when Siva had to flee from the asura after Siva granted Bhasmasura a boon that gave him the power to reduce a person to ashes by simply placing his hand on his victim's head.

Ultimately, it was Vishnu who rescued Siva by dressing up as Mohini and enticing the asura into keeping his hand on himself. This reduces the asura to ashes. His attam was in line with the story and was done with absolute grace by Injakkadu. He was well supported by Margi Harivalsan in the role of the Kattalasthree.

Margi Ravindran Pillai and Margi Sukumaran essayed the role of Shiva and Parvathi, respectively.

Kalamandalam Jayaprakash carried the audience with the soothing music that he rendered. He took a lot of freedom in the usage of ragas and was helped by Kalamandalam Sudheesh. Kalabharathi Unnikrishnan on the chenda and Kalamandalam Venukuttan on the maddalam proved to be equally talented in their area of expertise.

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Printable version | Apr 14, 2021 8:21:06 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/Conquering-pride-and-vanity/article16206264.ece

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