Succinct depiction

Kalamandalam Balasubramaniam as Keechaka in 'Keechakavadham.' Photo: Special Arrangement   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

One of the several prathinayakas engraved in the minds of Kathakali rasikas is Keechaka, whose amorous advances towards Malini and his inevitable fall captured the poetic imagination of Irayimman Thampi in the early 19th century.

‘Keechakavadham' is the playwright's succinct depiction of a set of events in the life of Keechaka, the mighty chieftain in the kingdom of Virata where the Pandavas lived incognito for a year. Theatrically affluent moments in the play and its glamorous music have made it a popular play among the Kathakali patrons.

The play was staged at Parakkadavu Village, near Kochi.

As the curtain goes up Sudeshna, the Queen of King Virata, and Sairandhri (or Malini), the wife of the Pandavas, are seen engaged in conversation.

Bowled over

Sudeshna welcomes Sairandhri to the court, admires her beauty unreservedly and accepts Sairandhri as her maid. The second scene begins with Keechaka's ‘thiranokku' (usually announcing the entry of an anti-hero or demonic character). After establishing his majesty, Keechaka comes across Sairandhri who is plucking flowers in the garden. He is bowled over by her looks. When the petrified Malini furrows her brows in irritation, Keechaka requests her not to “beat him with her brows that wrestle with the bow of Lord Kamadeva.”

Eventually, with the help of his sister, Sudeshna, Keechaka manages to get a reluctant Sairandhri to go to his chamber.

The scene that follows shows Keechaka trying to woo Sairandhri. The padam, ‘Harinakshi,' is Keechaka's words of worship towards his ‘love.'

Sairandhri escapes his advances but she gets kicked by an enraged Keecahaka who gets annoyed when he is thwarted. In the penultimate scene, Sairandhri informs Valala (Bhima in disguise) about her predicament. Finally, Valala takes Sairandhri's place during a rendezvous and kills Keechaka.

Kalamandalam Balasubramaniyan enacted the role of Keechaka with élan. On a few occasions, he crossed over to the un-aesthetic terrain of lokadharmi. Kalamandalam Shanmukhan presented the unfortunate predicament of Sairandhri with moderation. Kalamandalam Sucheendran appeared to be a bit too alienated from the character of Sudeshna while Kalamandalam Neeraj enacted the role of Valala satisfactorily. Pathiyoor Sankarankutty and Kalanilayam Rajeev sang the play with confidence and in harmony with the visual expressions.

Kalamandalam Raman Namboodiri and Kalanilayam Prakasan carefully accompanied the actors on the chenda and the maddalam. The play was organised by Natyadharmi, a cultural forum operating in Parakkadavu.

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Printable version | May 13, 2021 10:16:06 AM |

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