Theatre

Tale of two friends

Friend in need: A scene from Kuchelavritham.   | Photo Credit: 14tvfkuchelan

‘Kuchelavritham Kathakali' was staged in Thrissur by a group of young artistes in connection with a programme to pay tribute to K.N. Durgadathan Bhattathiripad.

The story of the ‘Attakkatha,' written by Muringur Sankaran Potti (1843-1905), has been derived from the ‘Bhagavatam.' This play was popularised in North Kerala by Kunju Kurup and Kunju Nair. Kuchelan was the last ‘vesham' donned by the late Vazhenkada Kunju Nair. Over the years, ‘Kuchelavritham' has become a popularly staged play on Kathakali stages. The striking feature of this play is the bond between Kuchelan and Krishna.

The play that was staged in Thrissur began with the padam ‘Danavari mukundane...,' which describes Kuchelan's thoughts on Krishna when he leaves his home to meet his childhood friend.

Warm welcome

The second scene shows Krishna warmly welcoming Kuchelan and liberating him from the shackles of poverty. It also has the famous and popular scene that depicts Krishna persuading Kuchelan to give him his humble gift of beaten rice. The scene opens with Krishna and Rukmini in an amorous mood when Krishna spots his friend at the gates of his palace and rushes out to welcome him.

After they catch up, eventually, Krishna wants to know what is that Kuchelan has bought as a gift for him. Overriding an embarrassed Kuchelan's effort to hide his humble gift, Krishna takes it from him and eats a handful. Rukmini prevents him from eating the second handful and though an argument ensues, all is well that ends well. Kuchelan goes home a happy man.

Peesappalli Rajeevan and Kottakkal Kesavan performed as Kuchelan and Krishna, respectively. Rajeevan's theatre experience came in handy to essay the poverty-stricken Kuchelan. His ‘bhavabhinaya' was at its peak in the melodious evergreen padam ‘Ajitha hare jaya...' in Sreeragam and his short but relevant ‘manodharma attam' in the first scene was a good piece of work.

Kottakkal Kesavan's mudras and kalasams were exceptionally good. While enacting the padam ‘Kalayami sumathe..bhusura maule...' he came up with an interesting depiction of Krishna reminiscing their schooldays in Guru Sandeepani's ashram. Kalamandalam Sucheendranath portrayed Rukmini.

The signature feature of this performance was the emotion-laden rendering by Kottakkal Madhu and Nedumpalli Rammohan. They were at their best while rendering the padam ‘Pushkaravilochana...' Kottakkal Vijayaraghavan and Kalanilayam Prakasan on the chenda and the maddalam, respectively, supported the performers.

The evening was organised by Durgadatha Kavya Sameeksha. A CD titled ‘Nilathirikal,' containing 10 poems of Bhattathiripad, composed by musician and veena artiste Ananthapadmanabhan, was released on the occasion.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2021 7:43:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/Tale-of-two-friends/article16300500.ece

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