A competition that confirmed why Koodiyattam has captured the eye of the theatre fraternity the world over

Rama and Illusory Sita (Soorpanakha) on the ground; and illusory Rama (Ravana), Sita and the charioteer on the airborne chariot.

Rama and Illusory Sita (Soorpanakha) on the bottom; and illusory Rama (Ravana), Sita and the charioteer on the airborne chariot.
| Photograph Credit score: Achuthan T Ok

Gurusmarana Koodiyattam Pageant at Ammannur Gurukulam in Irinjalakuda — with attaprakaram or performing manuals written by the late maestro Ammannur Madhava Chakyar as its theme — was a stroll down reminiscence lane that unearthed some uncommon gems. The five-day annual competition, aside being an aesthetic expertise, additionally revealed why this historic theatre, whereas not a preferred artform of the plenty, has captured the eye of the theatre fraternity the world over.

One of many extraordinary options of Koodiyattam is that the playwright and the textual content take second billing to the actor and the attaprakaram created by the guru. The textual content is just the start line and the creator of the performing guide provides perspective, character background, and verses from exterior sources with robust performing potential. Within the course of the performing guide expands in heft with the playwright’s authentic textual content forming solely a small however integral half.

Furthermore, within the arms of a gifted actor, the attaprakaram expands additional when she or he imaginatively faucets into the performing alternatives offered in it. No surprise, a play like Ascharyachoodamani (wondrous Crest Jewel), written by Sakthibhadran, believed to have lived between the seventh and eleventh centuries, takes over 100 days to carry out its seven acts in full.

Margi Madhu as Lakshmana and Usha Nangiar as Lalitha (Soorpanakha in disguise).

Margi Madhu as Lakshmana and Usha Nangiar as Lalitha (Soorpanakha in disguise).
| Photograph Credit score:
Achutan T.Ok.

As Koodiyattam scholar Ok. G. Paulose mentioned in his speak on the competition, the position of the actor in Koodiyattam is to not narrate the story however to convey the interior thought processes and emotions of the character to the viewers. It’s exactly this aspect of the artform that was highlighted on the opening day that featured a small part of Parnasalankam, Act Considered one of Ascharyachoodamani . The context is Ravana’s sister Soorpanakha wandering round on the lookout for a husband. She falls for the good-looking Rama, disguises herself as a wonderful girl (Lalita), and approaches him. Rama in flip sends her to Lakshmana.

Wonderful portrayal

Senior artists Margi Madhu as Lakshmana and Usha Nangiar as Lalita left deep impressions. This isn’t a simple act because the characters of Lakshmana and Soorpanakha try to outwit the opposite, and don’t essentially imply what they are saying. This contradiction was conveyed subtly by each Madhu and Usha.

Soorpanakha in Usha’s arms isn’t a revolting demoness however emerges as a intelligent girl deserving of our empathy.

An impressive passage was Madhu as Lakshmana making an attempt to shoo away Soorpanakha by narrating to her the rigours of life within the forest. His portrayal of making an attempt to sleep sitting on a tree department, lightning bolts and getting drenched in rain was an performing lesson on how one can use one’s physique.

The programme line up on the competition additionally threw mild on the sophistication of the theatrical gadgets and performing strategies used on this 1000-year-old artform.

     Kapila  Venu as Sita and Sooraj Nambiar as Lakshmana.

Kapila Venu as Sita and Sooraj Nambiar as Lakshmana.
| Photograph Credit score:
Achutan T.Ok.

Each Mayaseethankam, featured in two elements, and Agnipravesankam on the ultimate day revealed how imaginative prospers of the playwright and the inventive interpolations of the attaprakaram creator mix to boost the theatrical expertise. Digressions from the unique epic, creating new characters, descriptive commentaries to convey dramatic occasions and substantial roles for girls — which have all the time been carried out solely by ladies — have been all on show right here.

Margi Sajeev Narayana Chakyar as Ascharyalakshmana and Nepathya Hari as Rama.

Margi Sajeev Narayana Chakyar as Ascharyalakshmana and Nepathya Hari as Rama.
| Photograph Credit score:

Dramatic narrative

For instance a scene from Mayaseethankam had two units of Rama and Sita — one illusory and one actual — on stage on the identical time. Pairing the actual Sita with an illusory Rama (Ravana) in an airborne chariot and a faux Sita (Soorpanakha) with the actual Rama on the bottom offered some twists and heightened the dramatic narrative of the kidnapping of Sita.

Aside from Usha Nangiar, two different robust feminine roles have been offered by Kapila Venu as Sita and Saritha Krishnakumar because the illusory Sita in Mayaseethankam Half 1 and a pair of respectively. Sita’s nervousness about Rama that resulted in merciless accusations towards Lakshmana, and the latter’s helplessness, have been dropped at life fantastically by Kapila and Sooraj Nambiar. The seasoned actors ensured that this emotional duel didn’t sink into melodrama. It was Saritha because the illusory Sita (Soorpanakha) who stood out in Mayaseethankam Half 2. Her complicity within the kidnap and eventually in search of Rama’s assist for an escape route was convincingly portrayed by Sarita. Their dialogues might have been temporary, however their presence on stage was robust and impactful.

Impactful scene

The competition concluded with Agnipravesankam, which centres round Sita’s check by hearth ordered by Rama to show her purity. The scene comes alive vividly because of the playwright’s inventiveness in making Lakshmana narrate the incident. With none props or particular results, with out even displaying Sita, the viewers feels the magnitude of the occasion.

Ascharya Lakshmana, or Wonderstruck Lakshmana as he’s known as on this scene, particulars how Sita entered the hearth with none concern or rancour, how gods showered flowers from heaven and the way Lord Agni led Sita out of the hearth. With shock written throughout his face, pleasure evident in his footwork and the cadence of the dialogues, Margi Sajeev Narayana Chakyar as Lakshmana conveyed the fun of witnessing this extraordinary expertise of Sita rising unscathed from hearth.

Onus on the dramaturg

A chat on Put up-Dramatic Theatre, which focuses on theatre past the textual content and strikes from author-centric to a collective effort, offered an fascinating sense of deja vu. Sreejith Ramanan, Head, Division of Theatre, Faculty of Drama and Tremendous Arts in Thrissur, mentioned that in right now’s post-dramatic theatre, the inventive lead in a play isn’t with the playwright, nor with the director, however with the dramaturg. Maybe one thing similar to what our Koodiyattam guru has been doing in his kalari over a thousand years in the past.

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