Fine acts of classicism

The annual Nishagandhi Kathakali mela, beginning as usual on January 20, provided connoisseurs a rare treat of seven superb performances of carefully chosen plays, namely ‘Baalivijayam,' ‘Narakaasuravadham,' ‘Nalacharitham – Nalaam Divasam,' ‘Kuchelavriththam,' ‘Duryodhanavadham,' ‘Dakshayaagam' and ‘Nalacharitham – Onnam Divasam.' They were presented by an impressive array of artistes, including past masters in acting, percussion and singing as well as up-and-coming ones representing different generations and traditions of training.

Different styles

The fete commenced with the Thiranottam of Ravana in ‘Baalivijayam.' Octogenarian Madavur Vasudevan Nair presented it on a small scale, but in strict conformity with the tenets of the Southern style (Thekkan chitta) of Kathakali that is reminiscent of his illustrious preceptor, guru Chengannur Raman Pillai.

The rivalry among Ravana's 20 arms and 10 heads to embrace Mandodari and her inability to identify the most beautiful among his faces were depicted quite effectively by Madavur and his talented ‘Koottuvesham' (co-actor) – Kalamandalam Shanmughan.

Madavur's presentation of Ravana's responses to the various epithets employed by Sage Narada in extolling him sarcastically and the demon king's astonishing feat of lifting Mount Kailas and tossing it about as a ball, paving way, incidentally, to his obtaining the invincible sword Chandrahaasa from Lord Siva was exquisite.

Thonnakkal Peethambaran's Narada and Nelliyode Vasudevan Namputhiri's Bali contributed to making the performance a memorable one.

The stage entry of a major Kathi vesham in the Northern style of Kathakali is different from that in the Southern style. This was evident in Kalamandalam Krishnakumar's presentation of Narakaasura the following day.

Soon after the pathinja padam (composition appropriate to a romantic scene in a very slow tempo), the demon king rose to become the mightiest hero, formidable even to the heavens. In the scene depicting the demon king seeing his mutilated sister Nakrathundi, Krishnakumar resorted to the technique of ‘kettaattam' (‘acting after listening to') rather than ‘pakarnattam' (‘acting with role-changes'), thereby maintaining the action on the stage, including the percussion at the crescendo till dhanaasi, the final invocatory dance.

The usually enacted four scenes in ‘Nalacharitham Naalam Divasam,' namely those featuring Damayanti, her companion Kesini and Baahuka, were presented magnificently by the team comprising Margi Vijayakumar, Margi Harivalsan and Kalamandalam Gopi.

They were ably supported by singers Pathiyur Sankaran Kutti and Kalanilayam Rajeevan and accomplished drummers, Kalamandalam Unnikrishnan and Margi Ratnakaran.

Kalamandalam Balasubrahmanyan, donning the role of Krishna, with Kalamandalam Arun Variar, playing Rukmini, wove an episode into ‘Kuchelavritham.' Kottakkal Madhu, assisted effectively by Kalamandalam Vinod, made each of the famous padams in the play a thing of beauty by using syllables filled with sangatis.

Kottakkal Chandrasekharan presented Duryodhana as the hateful hero of his clan, but endowed with subtle humour.

Kalanilayam Kunchunni's playing of the chenda was an outburst of enthusiasm, which proved contagious.

Sadanam Krishnan Kutty's portrayal of Daksha and Nala (of the Onnam Divasam) had features that are distinctively his own.

The Kathakali mela was organised by the Kerala Tourism Department.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 8:20:01 AM |

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