Theatre

Obeisance to their guru

Kalamandalam Soman as Ravana (left) and Kalamandalam Kasinathan as Mandodari   | Photo Credit: specail arrangement

Kottarakkara Thampuran's ‘Thoranayudham' Kathakali was staged in the Koothambalam of Kerala Kalamandalam, recently. This grand performance was in connection with the birth anniversary of Kalamandalam Padmanabhan Nair, Kathakali exponent and former principal of Kalamandalam. Young artistes performed this play as a tribute to the maestro, who was more renowned as a teacher than as a performer.

Hanuman's search

‘Thoranayudham,' an excerpt from the Ramayana, is a real test of skill and stamina for any Kathakali artiste. The story narrates Hanuman's search for Sita and his meeting with Ravana, the king of Lanka. The first hour is full of manodharma attam, where Hanuman describes the events and people he meets.

This attam, conceptualised and developed by Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair, was enacted by Kalamandalam Suryanarayanan, a lecturer at Kalamandalam. Suryanarayanan's skill and mastery were evident and, though, he was trained by Padmanabhan Nair, this particular act was reminiscent of the style of Ramankutty Nair.

After crossing the sea, Hanuman meets Lankalaxmi (Kalamandalm Neeraj), the gatekeeper of the kingdom, who blocks his entry into Lanka. When Hanuman slaps her, she is redeemed from Lord Brahma's curse and transforms into her original self – the beautiful Lankasree.

On Lankasree's advice, Hanuman begins his search for Sita and finds her sitting under the Simsipa tree. Hanuman decides to wait and watch.

The next scene shows Ravana in his palace. However, his equanimity is disturbed by something that seems to be enveloping him. He realises that it is his lust for Sita that is troubling him. He decides to try and win Sita's affection. Kalamandalam Soman performed this scene with a perfect balance of emotion and skill. From his entry on to the stage along with Mandodari (Kalamandalam Kasinathan), Soman's Ravana stood apart. In the next scene, Ravana approaches Sita (Kalamandalam Vishnunath) and tries to woo her. Soman, a disciple of Vazhenkada Vijayan and Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair, followed Vazhenkada Kunju Nair's performance style during his essaying of this act.

In this attam, known as ‘Rajyachutham,' Ravana describes Rama as a mere man and Ravana, himself, as a mighty king. Soman's body language and slow mudras made this scene all the more attractive. Ravana then presents some gifts to Sita to win her over, but she refuses his advances. This provokes Ravana and as he is about to kill her, Mandodari intervenes.

Ravana versus Hanuman

After Ravana's exit Hanuman meets Sita and conveys Rama's message to her. Overjoyed, she blesses Hanuman and bids him to return to Rama. Meanwhile, Hanuman decides to wreck Ravana's beautiful garden, Pramadavanam. Suryanarayanan as Hanuman brought a bit of light-heartedness to the scene with some comic gestures. Ravana's soldiers capture Hanuman and tie him up. In the final scene, a battle ensues between Ravana and Hanuman.

Although the story is mostly manodharma attam, percussion has an important role in this play. Kalanilayam Kunjunni and Kottakkal Radhakrishnan performed well on the chenda and maddalam, respectively. Kalamandalam Balasundaran and the students of Kalamandalam supported them. Kalamandalam Babu Nambudiri and Kalamandalam Hareesh rendered the lyrics.


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Printable version | Jul 31, 2021 11:46:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/Obeisance-to-their-guru/article15782662.ece

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