Clash of interests

A recital of Narakasuravadham Kathakali in Tripunithura had its highs and lows

Of those Kathakali plays that close in on multiple moods of villainous characters, Narakasuravadham of Karthika Thirunal Ramavarma stands out for its thematic progression and treatment of characters. The play is enlisted in the domain of classicism, thanks to the choreographic competence of artiste-cum-aesthete Kaplingad Namboodiri. It was recently staged at Kalikotta Palace, Tripunithura.

The play began with the entry of Nakrathundi, a demoness, who is directed by Narakasura to nab some Apsaras (celestial women) from heaven for him.

Kalamandalam Hari R Nair, who donned the role, displayed his theatrical aptitude in depicting the demoness capturing the women. Suddenly, she comes across handsome Jayantha, son of Lord Indra, and falls for him. While the actor deftly portrayed the dancing and playing by Nakrathundi all alone, her self-embellishment in order to woo Jayantha could have been a little more detailed.

A scene from ‘Narakasuravadham’ staged in Tripunithura

A scene from ‘Narakasuravadham’ staged in Tripunithura
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Special arrangement

Peesappilly Rajeevan appeared as Lalitha. His costumes looked slightly gaudy while the dominant expression of sringara rasa was in full flow. He seemed to be a little too cautious in the execution of gestures and movements in the first part, interfering at times with the spontaneity of characterisation. However, in the latter half, he was at his best, especially while enacting the line, ‘Kaanineram vaikaathe nee kaamakeli cheyka’. Freezing the movement for a split second following the word ‘Kaani’ was soaked in aesthetics. Kalamandalam Chinosh Balan as Jayantha did well in his presentation.

Kalamandalam Soman came on stage as Narakasura. In the thiranokku (improvisations with the curtain preceding the character’s act) and in the sringara padam that followed, the actor adhered to the disciplined grace and grandeur of the movements executed in the slow tempo.

He effortlessly did the Keki (the peacock dance) immortalised by actors of yore, including his guru, Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair. Narakasura’s shift from sringara rasa to veera rasa (heroism) on listening to the mutilated Nakrathundi, unfortunately, lacked spontaneity. The padappurappad (sharpening the weapons to set out for battle) was done in haste.

As he developed uneasiness on stage, Soman cut short the improvisational segment dealing with Ahalyamoksham and did away with scenes showing Narakasura grabbing the kundalam (ear-ornament) of Adithi and his fight with the celestial elephant Airavatham.

Kottakkal PD Namboodiri and Vengeri Narayanan Namboodiri sang the slokams and the padams, lending those appropriate emotions. Instead of singing each and every charanam in raga Neelambari, Namboodiri, for the padam of Lalitha, boldly introduced Hamirkalyani followed by Hindolam, much to the delight of avid listeners. The rendition of the sahitya could have had more clarity. Kalamandalam Balasundaran was on the chenda and he was assisted by Srihari and Kalamandalam Raj Narayanan on the maddalam. The performance was held under the auspices of the Tripunithura Kathakali Kendram.

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