Theatre

Brilliant portrayal of the horrible

Narakasura Vadham with Kottakkal Keshavan Kundalayar as Narakasuran during Bhava Bhavanam-Rajasam Kathakali Festival at Rukmani Arangam, Kalakshetra on Friday. Photo: N. Sridharan  

The finale of ‘Bhaava Bhaavanam- Rajasam’ was a special, never-seen-before play, ‘Narakasura Vadham,’ held at Kalakhetra, Chennai. The five-hour Kathakali presentation was written by Maharaja Karthika Tirunal in the 18th century. It had an unusual segment called ‘Ninam’ in which a character drenched in blood is presented, much against the principles of traditional theatre. This would be tantamount to creating ‘bheebatsa’ rasa or a repulsive reaction in the viewers through the display of something horrible. ‘Ninam’ is influenced by the ritual art forms of Kerala.

Kathakali is about 300 years old, yet its theatrical technique is very sophisticated. Imagine a romantic tryst that Krishna has with both Rukmini and Sathyabhama at the same time. The treatment is that of a one-on-one conversation, because when Krishna is addressing one of them or vice-versa, the other spouse is removed from the scene. It is never a three-way conversation.

Laced with humour

Kottakkal Devadas as the demoness Nakrathundi in a kari vesham was one of the highlights of the colourful play. Her attempts to look like a ‘lady’ as she tended to her matted hair, cleaned her ear and earrings, applied kumkum and kajal were laced with humour as she went about the job in a crude manner. Moments later, she was seen catching lions to hang as ornaments in her ears before she set off for heaven on a demonic errand!

She tries to woo Jayanthan there and is rewarded with a disfigured face and breasts.

‘Ninam’ was her appearance in the asura court, with blood dripping, weaving her way into the court with her attendants screaming wildly. The people led her in with fire torches to the accompaniment of firecrackers in the background. A scene more dramatic could not have been staged.

Arriving on the scene, about three hours into the production, was Narakasura (Kottakal Keshavan Kundalayar) with his consort (Ramya) in the mandatory romantic scene set in Padi raga (‘Balikamar Maule Bale’).

The peacock dance delicately performed by the asura capped his considerable acting prowess. Particularly striking was Ramya’s grace and clear role-play. The enraged Narakasura sees the gory sight of Nakrathundi and decides to wage a war against Indra.

It was interesting to note how the asuras as protagonists had won over the rasikas – when Indra, the king of the devas was defeated by Narakasura at 11 p.m., there was spontaneous applause!

The supporting artists were: Kalanilayam Unnikrishnan, Kalamandalam Rajesh Menon, Sadanam Shivadasan, Sadanam Jyothishbabu (vocals) with percussionists Kottakkal Prasad, Sadanam Balakrishnan, Sadanam Vasu, Raja Narayanan, Kalanilayam Prakashan.


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Printable version | Sep 15, 2021 12:34:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/brilliant-portrayal-of-the-horrible/article2514895.ece

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