Theatre

Remarkable Ravana

Kalamandalam Soman as Ravanan.   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

‘Ravanolbhavam,' written by Kallekulangara Raghava Pisharodi, is considered to be the attakatha that gave Kathi veshams in Kathakali a new depth, dimension and prominence. The story depicts Ravana's hatred and vengeance towards his step-brother Vysravana. The performance is filled with Natyadharmi. Kalamandalam Soman recently gave a remarkable performance as Ravana in ‘Ravanolbhavam' at Sreekrishnapuram, near Palakkad.

Performance style

Pattikkamthodi Ravunni Menon, the father of stylised Kathakali, was renowned for his portrayal of this particular Kathi vesham. Vazhenkada Kunju Nair too was famous for his portrayal of Ravana, which focussed on the ‘chitta' [style] of the performance manual. ‘Ravanolbhavam' by Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair (who is Soman's guru) may perhaps be more familiar among modern-day Kathakali enthusiasts. His performances are marked by technique and are a blend of tala and bhava.

Soman's depiction of ‘Ravanolbhavam' stood out from the Thiranottam itself. The performance style of this story is closely connected with ‘nirvahanam' – the enactment technique adapted from Koodiyattam.

A young Ravana who lives with his mother, Kaikasi, in the forest is envious of his step-brother Vysravana, who is well off. Ravana decides to defeat Vysravana. For this purpose he starts a penance to Lord Brahma along with his younger brothers Kumbhakarna and Vibhheshana.

When Lord Brahma fails to respond, a desperate Ravana starts cutting off his heads one by one. When he is about to cut off his tenth head, Lord Brahma appears and blesses him with boons.

Only two other characters apart from Ravana appear in the play (Kumbhakarna and Vibhheshana) and that too only in the last half hour. Until then, for two hours, it is Ravana's stage. Soman himself enacts the above scenes with Pakarnattam. His power-packed performance was full of perfect mudras and kalasams in appropriate tala. He started with slow footwork and body movement, which became more vigorous as the story progressed and reached a crescendo during the scene depicting the penance.

At times Soman's enactment reflected his guru in his heyday.

One of the highlights of the performance was the percussion support by ace chenda exponent Kalamandalam Krishnadas.

The play is such that it needs good melam support throughout and Krishnasdas excelled in providing that. The pyramidal development of the Thripuda tala was most entertaining. Krishnadas was supported by Sadanam Ramakrishnan (chenda) Kalamandalam Venu and Hariharan (maddalam). Nedumpalli Rammohan and Sadanam Jyotish Babu were the musicians.

The performance was organised in connection with the 60th anniversary of Higher Secondary School at Sreekrishnapuram.

A panchavadyam arangettam by staff and students of the school marked the start of the programme.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2021 4:09:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/Remarkable-Ravana/article16189383.ece

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