Narakasuravadham - Kathakali at Uthareeyam’s 20th Stage

‘UTHAREEYAM’, the cultural organization based at Chennai, that promotes the classical performing arts of Kerala, conducted its 20th stage on the 22nd of Aug in Mahalingapuram Ayyappa Temple, Chennai (Tamilnadu).  The programme started with a lecture demonstration on Kathakali by Mr.Sethunath U and Kalamandalam Sarath. With the help of Sarath, Sethunath demonstrated how each element of Kathakali viz the mudra (hand gestures), Chuzhippu ( the body movement), the bhava (expressions), the percussions and the music contributes to the total feel for the viewer. Sarath also enacted two important portions from the story ‘Narakasuravadham’ and Sethunath gave the commentary to explain it to the viewers.

The main performance of the evening was ‘Narakasuravadham’. Kalamandalam Ravikumar, an accomplished actor and faculty in Kerala Kalamandalam donned the role of Narakasura. Kalamandalam Aromal as Narakasurapathni(wife of Narakasuran) and Kalamandalam Shyamdas as Indran (King of heaven)  performed with him. Starting with the Sringarapadam (romantic stanzas) Balikamaarmouli…” Ravikumar showed perfect body movements and emotion throughout the scene ‘Kekiattam’ (dance of peacocks). After the reply of Vibhrami, the librettos done by Ravikumar reinforced the sringarabhava which was maintained throughout. This was followed by the description of the roaring noise which he heard and the pakarnattam as Nakrathundi, the demoness. The importance of the percussions came to the fore and the percussionists did not miss to reinforce even the most subtle acts of the actor.

After knowing from Nakrathundi about the insult inflicted upon her by Jayantha, son of Indran, Narakasuran prepares for war with Indran. The scene of war preparation is also an act that showcases the core technical aspects (chitta) and the importance of structured formal training (kalari). After reaching the heaven, Narakasuran challenges Indran for a war.  Indra’s reply is followed by the battle in which he is defeated.

Narakasuran then sets out to see the heaven, during which he defeats ‘Airavatha’, the elephant of Indran with four tusks, captures the ear rings of Adithi, Indran’s mother, uproots the Kalpavruksha (divine tree in Hindu mythology) and abducts some heavenly beauties. The performance concluded with him victoriously leaving for his palace in earth.
Ravikumar’s performance was full of energy and strictly adhered to the rhythm defined in various portions. The support of percussion was extraordinary with Kalamandalam Raman Nambuthiri in Chenda and Kalamandalam Achutha Warrier in Maddalam, supported by Kalamandalam Srihari and Biju Attupuram on chenda and Maddalam respectively. Kalamandalam Vishnu and Kalamandalam Krishnakumar were the singers. The make-up artist was Kalamandalam Ravikumar and the stage and green room supporters were Kottakkal Kunjiraman, Rajan and Kuttan.

The performance - 'Narakasuravadham' Kathakali - was in Kaplingadan style.The Kaplingadan style (chitta), followed predominantly in southern Kerala and Kalluvazhy style more followed in northern Kerala are the two styles that are prevalent today in Kathakali. The differences between the styles vary from very subtle ones to a different make-up altogether for some characters in some plays. In Narakasuravadham, the main differences are in the Keki attam,  librettos (ilakilyattam) after the sringarapadam, Nakrathundi’s pakarnattam, which is not there in Kalluvazhy style, and the preparation for the war (padappurappad). There are also some differences in the description of the roaring noise of Nakrathundi,  and the portions after the victory over Indran.

It is not often that we see Narakasuravadham in Kaplingadan style. The differences with the Kalluvazhy style were quite marked and the evening left a lasting impression on the audience.
Written by: Rajesh Variar 
Photo : Jayanthan Aryampilly 

Narakasuravadham - Kathakali at Uthareeyam’s 20th Stage Narakasuravadham - Kathakali  at Uthareeyam’s 20th Stage Reviewed by Welcome Kerala on 09:15:00 Rating: 5

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