Ask any Koodiyattam actor who his favorite character is and the reply will invariably be Ravana. Pose that query to a connoisseur and chances are you’ll get the identical reply. The very fact is that Ramayana’s villain is the protagonist in Koodiyattam, and different conventional theatre types of Kerala. Ravana affords the largest problem and the best potential for the actor; and essentially the most aesthetic delight to the spectator.
So it was significantly apt that ‘Natyadharmi 22’ — the annual five-day pageant organised by the central Sangeet Natak Akademy’s Kutiyattam Kendra — had Ravana as its theme. The occasion styled Natyaravanam, wherein almost 60 artistes took half, was curated in such a method that it conveyed the essence of what Koodiyattam is — the primacy of efficiency over story and the anti-hero cult that Kerala’s conventional performing artforms celebrated even a thousand years in the past.
As Prof. Okay.G. Poulose, scholar and former vice-chancellor of Kerala Kalamandalam, famous in his speech on the inaugural session, Kerala’s Natyashastra custom was not a duplicate of these adopted in different components of India. In Koodiyattam, focus is extra on the presentation than the story. “Whereas Natyashastra aimed to undertaking a perfect hero and construct up a narrative in direction of that excellent, Kerala custom went past that and retained its concentrate on the psychological course of, not the story. .”
That is exactly what the sixth version of Natyadharmi, the final two of which had been held on-line, conveyed. A flight of creativeness displaying Ravana in all his moods — boastful, smug, victorious, pious, amorous, love-smitten, villainous and heroic.
It was no coincidence that of the 15 Ravanas introduced, six had been from Asokavanikankam, the fifth act of Sakthibhadra’s Ascharyachoodamani, which affords an enormous canvas to convey to the fore the histrionic effulgence synonymous with Koodiyattam. Introduced in full for over 17 days, this act doesn’t advance the Ramayana story in any respect, although in its course of Ravana straddles the three worlds with tales of his exploits, his desires, his victories, and above all his love and fervour. The act begins with Ravana describing Sita’s magnificence and pouring out his love for her. On the finish of the act, or after 17 days, we see Ravana sitting in the identical state, bruised by unrequited love.
The pageant’s finale was the final scene of Asokavanikankam — Valiya Udyanapravesam or grand entry into the backyard, which is a visible spectacle and an ode to amour or shringara in all its hues, wooing Sita with items, blandishments and even threats. That is the place Margi Madhu Chakyar confirmed his mastery over the shape. Within the solo act that Madhu edited to simply over 4 hours, he displayed his maturity and expertise in presenting this demanding and restrictive act the place the actor strikes simply three or 4 ft in these 4 hours. The primary part, describing Sita’s magnificence known as ‘Kesadipada’ took over an hour with the extraordinarily sluggish delineation of mudras set to the 14-beat Dhruva tala.
Love was once more the theme when Margi Sajeev Narayana Chakyar introduced panadroopam , the place Ravana’s ten pairs of eyes feast on Sita’s magnificence. Sitting on the stool and along with his eyes and face in play, Sajeev noticed the ten faces competing and combating for Sita, pacified them and admonished them. Within the final section solely the eyes come into play because the ten heads soak up Sita’s magnificence.
Sajeev along with his fingers folded on the chest introduced a masterclass in focus and netrabhinaya, shifting his eyes in ten alternative ways.
The Asokavanika backyard once more featured in Rahul Chakyar’s depiction of Sankukarna, in Toranayudham, the place the gardener studies to Ravana that his backyard has been destroyed by a monkey. He goes on to explain Ravana’s love for his backyard by describing how he introduced the crops and timber and creepers from heaven and planted them himself. And the way Ravana stopped the wind from blowing and banished the Solar from Lanka to guard his crops from which even his spouse Mandodari doesn’t dare to select a leaf. The spotlight of Rahul’s efficiency was a section known as koppaniyikkal or the maids serving to Mandodari apply make-up and dress. Rahul’s transformation into femininity was lovely to look at.
Apparently, whereas the softer aspect of Ravana, as an aesthete, an admirer of magnificence and an ardent lover was introduced by three males, the valiant and smug faces of Ravana had been introduced by three ladies — Usha Nangiar, Aparna Nangiar and Kalamandalam Sangeeta. They displayed how the Koodiyattam performing system often known as pakarnnattam, or transformative performing, permits a feminine artiste to current on stage even essentially the most villainous male character.
Usha introduced Mandodari’s nirvahanam or retrospective from Asokavanikankam, a three-day part she reintroduced to Koodiyattam repertoire after it was misplaced through the years. As Mandodari wakes up from a nightmare in regards to the destruction of Lanka, her ideas return to her personal life and that of Ravana. Usha introduced the action-packed tapassattam the place Ravana, doing extreme penance, chops off his heads one after the other until Lord Shiva seems and grants him near-immortality. Usha’s depiction of Ravana — with fireplace in his eyes, whereas impatiently ready for Shiva, and the glow in his eyes when he sees his bride Mandodari — was fascinating.
This similar episode of Ravana’s penance was carried out by Ammannur Rajaneesh Chakyar from a distinct perspective. Presenting a brand new choreography of Mahaveeracharitam by the eighth century playwright Bhavabhooti, Rajaneesh revealed the smug Ravana boasting to Mandodari how courageous and highly effective he was in executing this not possible activity.
Kalamandalam Sangeeta introduced one other a part of Mandodari’s Nirvahanam to explain how Ravana gained the three worlds. She impressed along with her verve and power in presenting the favored episode of Ravana lifting Mount Kailasa and the way he receivedhis well-known sword Chandrahasa from Shiva.
“Presenting the identical character in numerous episodes, and from completely different views, was a deliberate option to showcase the aesthetics of this artform”, says Kannan Parameswaran, director of Kutiyattam Kendra, who curated this pageant. Says Kannan: “Our principal concern was in making an attempt to edit these episodes to a manageable three hours or so. Koodiyattam is inherently minute, detailed, repetitive and digressive. What we tried to do at this pageant was to current this aesthetics of Koodiyattam, with out dropping its authentic particulars, to a more moderen and youthful viewers.”