Theatre

Journey of life

Artistic trio: (from left) Sreevalsan J. Menon, Kalamandalam Gopi and Artist Namboodiri. Photo: Thulasi Kakkat

Artistic trio: (from left) Sreevalsan J. Menon, Kalamandalam Gopi and Artist Namboodiri. Photo: Thulasi Kakkat   | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

Event Artist Namboodiri, Kalamandalam Gopi and Sreevalsan J. Menon turned ‘Rangathryam' into a memorable show.

‘Rangathryam was indeed a unique experience as Kalamandalam Gopi, Artist Namboodiri and Sreevalsan J. Menon shared a stage. It was nothing short of a coup that Sree Poornathreyesa Sangeeta Sabha had pulled off in Thripunithura.

Everything about the Rangathryam was meticulously planned – right from setting up three performing areas inside the Kalikotta Palace to the black-draped stage and special lighting.

By the time K.G. Poulose, Vice-Chancellor, Kerala Kalamandalam Deemed University, lit the ‘aattavilakku,' the venue was full.

Sreevalsan took his place along with accompanying artistes, and Namboodiri stood with brushes and colours in front of easels covered with black canvas. Then, came the King, the hero. It became a moment frozen in time when Kalamandalam Gopi stood on his designated stage, in all the grace and regal aura that only Kathakali can create.

The attempt was to trace the evolution of a hero, through situations culledfrom classical literature. It started with the hero being told about the heroine and falling in love with her. After an exuberant romance, they marry. Their passionate marital life is interrupted by fate and the two lovers are separated. The same natural beauty that complemented their courtship now becomes torture for the lovelorn hero. Finally the two are re-united.

In just about two hours, Sreevalsan, in the company of Edapally Ajith (violin), Tripunithura Krishnadas (edakka), Kalamandalam Unnikrishnan (chenda), and Nanjil A.R. Arul (mridangam), travelled through these different phases of the hero's life through lyrics and text selected from a variety of sources such as aattakathas (texts for Kathakali), the Valmiki Ramayana, compositions by Tyagaraja and Swati Tirunal, and Ashtapadis. It was definitely not a connoisseur's show from Kalamandalam Gopi. But, perhaps, for the first time, the maestro was performing to texts outside the format of Kathakali. He acted out the situations, as only he can. While yearning for his love, he evoked on stage the subtle shades of love, passion and the pangs of separation.

The opening stanza of ‘Ma nishada...' was rendered in Saveri, followed by ‘Yaro ivar yaro...' from Ramanatakam in Bhairavi. The blossoming of love was rendered through ‘ Madhuratara...' from ‘ Rugmangada Charitam' and Swati Tirunal's ‘Manini vamata...' in Kamboji, Ananda Bhairavi and Todi and also through ‘Varanam aayiram...' from ‘Nachiyar Tirumozhi' rendered in Navaroj.

Tyagaraja's ‘Sita kalyana...' in Navaroj depicted the marriage while the padam ‘Panchala Raja tanaye…' from ‘Kalyana Sougandhikam' in raga Sankarabharanam portrayed the passionate hero. This was followed by a taniavarthanam, which was in tune with the battle between Ravana and Jatayu that was being depicted on the stage. The battle symbolised the change in the hero's fortune.

This was further delineated through ‘Dushtanam Dasamukhan...' from the Adhyatma Ramayanam and ‘ Kaschid Kanta...' from Meghadootam rendered in Poorvikalyani, Kaanada and Hindolam. ‘Rama Rama...' from ‘Kshetrayya Padam' and ‘ Mariman Kanni...' from ‘Nalacharitam' were sung in Bhairavi and Dwijavanti. ‘Tayo Samapattishu...' from ‘Kumara Sambhavam,' a tillana and ‘Kisalaya sayana...' from Ashtapadi in Sudh Sarang captured the joy of reunion.

Synchronised rendering

“The real challenge was to sychronise the singing with Gopi Asan's performance. Unlike what we usually do at a concert, here I had to sing for the master to complete the act. As for the music, I used the flavour of Carnatic music used in Kathakali, instead of sticking to real classical rendering,” said Sreevalsan.

As a result, he could move swiftly and smoothly from a verse in ‘Rugmangada Charitam' to a Swati Tirunal composition or from the chaste Malayalam of ‘Nalacharitam' to the Sanskrit lines of ‘Kumara Sambhavam.'

As Sreevalsan's voice provided an aural treat, Namboodiri and Kalamandalam Gopi came up with a visual treat that enchanted the eyes. While Kalamandalam Gopi was acting out the hero's journey, Namboodiri was capturing it on canvas with his famous strokes. Age does not show when masters are at their best. Two hours of music by Sreevalsan, glimpses of a masterly performance by Kalamandalam Gopi and four canvases by Namboodiri turned the event into a memorable treat.

Theatre person Ramesh Varma handled the lighting of the show that documented by the Centre for Digital Imaging Technology.

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Printable version | Jul 10, 2020 8:01:11 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/Journey-of-life/article16371966.ece

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