Theatre

In memory of a maestro

Nelliyode Vasudevan Nambudiri as Kali in 'Nalacharitham - Randam Divasam'. Photo: Special Arrangement   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Kathakali paid tribute to its ‘evergreen heroine,' the legendary Kottakal Sivaraman, on his first death anniversary, with a three-day Kathakali fete titled ‘Orma' at Karalmanna, Palakkad.

It was a fitting location because Sivaraman was born and brought up in this Valluvanadan village. Sivaraman, a disciple of Vazhenkada Kunju Nair, redefined the concept of the heroine in Kathakali, and over the five decades that he was active on stage, he initiated significant changes in Kathakali.

Three evenings of Kathakali, Nangiarkoothu, and seminars on Sivaraman were the highlights of ‘Orma.'

Thespians galore

The first play to be staged was ‘Nalacharitham – Randaam Divasam,' which was performed by actors from Kerala Kalamandalam.

Apart from artistes from the institution, Kalamandalam Gopi, Nelliyode Vasudevan Nambudiri, and Margi Vijayakumar also acted in the play.

Gopi enacted Nala – one of his signature roles – with mastery and grace. The septuagenarian skilfully performed the pathinjapadam ‘Kuvalaya vilochane Bale…' in raga Thodi. Gopi was in his element in the second half of the play when Nala loses to Pushkara in a game of dice. Similarly, he was at his best in his depiction of Nala's angst when the character is about to separate from his wife, Damayanthi.

Margi Vijayakumar enacted the role of Damayanthi. Septuagenarian Nelliyode's smart portrayal of Kali also caught the attention of the audience. Veteran vocalist Pathiyur Sankarankutty led the music with the support of musicians from Kalamandalam.

Kalamandalam Shylaja performed ‘Parvathi Parinayam' Nangiarkoothu on the second day of the fete. Although the performance was only for an hour, it was charged with emotion and had excellent choreography, which had sahitya, abhinaya and nrita in the right proportion. Artistes from Kalamandalam performed the background score for this performance.

Signature role

Following this, Kalamandalam Soman stormed the stage as Ravana in ‘Balivijayam.' An artiste with exemplary skill and stamina, Soman donned his masterpiece vesham in grand style this time too. His enactment of Ravana romancing his wife Mandodari was excellent.

Soman's essaying of the padam ‘Aravinda dalopama nayane…' in raga Padi was equally good. Ravana's narration of ‘Kailasodharanam' and ‘Parvathiviraham' are two highlights of ‘Balivijayam.' Here, Ravana speaks to Narada about the sword Chandrahasam. Soman performed this part of the narrative in full, without any editing, and gave importance to veera bhava.

Peesappalli Rajeevan took on the role of Narada, who is trying to plot against Ravana. Rajeevan, a gifted artiste, looked restless throughout the play and his unwarranted interferences in the narrative between the attams somewhat spoiled the quality of the performance. But his humour-packed portrayal of Narada was noteworthy. Nedumpally Rammohan and Sadanam Jyothish Babu were the singers.

Kalamandalam Krishnadas enriched the performance with his mastery over the chenda, especially with his perfect melam. Cherpulassery Hariharan played the maddalam with ease.

The fete came to a spectacular end with an all-night Kathakali performance. ‘Subhadraharanam' and ‘Duryodhanavadham' were the two plays performed.

‘Subhadraharanam,' penned by Manthredathu Nambudiri, narrates the story of Arjuna's wedding to Subhadra, and Balabhadra's anger upon hearing this. The play begins with a beautiful 15-minute scene where Subhadra weds Arjuna in the presence of Lord Krishna and Indra. A special valam tala melam accompanied by the sound of a conch (sankha nadam) is one of the attractions of the scene. After the wedding Krishna and Arjuna talk about the future, and the Pandava prince leaves Dwaraka with his wife.

Kottakkal Chandrasekhara Warrier essayed Arjuna with élan, especially in the first two scenes where he evocatively conveyed the bhavas of the character.

Vazhenkada Vijayan, who usually does Kathi veshams, donned the role of Subhadra's brother Balabhadra in textbook style. His depiction of the padams ‘Kuthravada...' and ‘Yadavasikhamane…' was a treat for the audience. FACT Padmanabhan acted as Krishna. He could pick up the pace only towards the end of the play. Kalamandalam Sucheendranath played the role of Subhadra.

Powerful portrayal

In ‘Duryodhanavadham,' Kottakkal Kesavan Kundalayar donned the lead role of Duryodhana with required power and skill. Kottakkal Devadas' Dussasana was impressive in both appearance and acting. Vellinezhi Haridas and Sadanam Bhasi enacted the roles of Panchali and Krishna, respectively. Kalamandalam Pradeep and Kalamandalam Hari R. Nair donned the roles of Duryodhana and Dussasana in the latter part of the play.

Narippatta Narayanan Nambudiri essayed ‘Roudra' Bheema. Palanad Divakaran, Kottakkal Madhu, Nedumpalli Rammohan, Kottakkal Santhosh, and Sadanam Jyothish Babu were the vocalists.

Kalamandalam Unnikrishnan, Kottakkal Prasad, Sadanam Ramakrishnan, and Kottakkal Vijayaraghavan, played the chenda while Kottakkal Ravi, Sadanam Devadas, Kalamandalam Venu, and Sadanam Prasad played the maddalam.

On all the three evenings there were discussions on Kottakal Sivaraman and screening of documentaries on the legend.

‘Orma' was organised by Kunju Nair Memorial Trust.

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Printable version | Apr 22, 2021 7:52:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/in-memory-of-a-maestro/article2302083.ece

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