Kirmeeravadham Kathakali is famous for its grammatical perfection and structured screenplay. While the story is based on various parts of Vanaparva from the Mahabharata, Kottarakkara Thampuran, the author of the attakatha, has taken the liberty of adding and excluding various scenes and characters. He has also played around with the timeline of the events on certain occasions. All these changes were made to ensure that the attakatha fits well with the grammatical structure of the artform.
Kirmeeravadham is divided into two parts with the first part usually called Pathracharitam as it depicts Dharmaputra receiving the Akshayapathra from the sun god, Surya. Kathakali enthusiasts in Ambalapuzha recently got an opportunity to watch a staging of Pathracharitam.
The first scene began with Dharmaputra entering the forest with his wife Panchali and poignantly portraying their fate through the enactment of a pathinja padam Bale kel nee.... The entry of the royal couple and the padam were choreographed to reflect the mental agony of the Pandavas, especially the eldest. Soka sthayi (sad mood) was maintained throughout the scene. The music and the percussion enhanced the scene.
Dharmaputhra acknowledges the pain and suffering Panchali has to undergo in the forest and recalls the good old days with regret. While acknowledging the difficulties they are going through, Panchali emphasises that she is more concerned about her inability to feed the thousands of Brahmins who have accompanied the Pandavas to the forest. The first scene ends with the king deciding to consult his guru Dhoumya for a solution to the problem.
The role of Dharmaputhra, the king in exile, is always a challenge to play for even experienced actors. Being a dheerodaatha (chivalrous) hero, the mental agony of the king needs to be enacted with controlled expressions, but at the same time, the severity needs to be conveyed to the audience. On the choreographic side, the pathinja vattam vechu kalasam and the pathinja iratti (both slow tempo dance patterns) need to be performed with care, as it should not disturb the sthayi of the sathvikaabhinaya.
Kalamandalam Shanmughan who enacted the role of Dharmaputhra was able to complete this challenging part of the performance with perfection, doing justice to the Kalluvazhi school of acting, in which he has been trained in. Kalamandalam Vijayakumar as Panchali provided ample support with his subtle but effective expressions.
The second scene started with Dharmaputhra visiting his guru Dhoumya. The sage advises Dharamaputhra to worship Surya and assures the king that he would find a solution. Pleased with the king, Surya blesses him with the Akshayapathra. While the entire scene provided the audience value for their time, the enactment of the padam Jaya Ruchira..., needs special mention. With a perfect blend of thourathrika, the beautiful rendition stood out.
The thaonkaram, (a special dance sequence) at the end of each charanam was a feast to both the eyes and the ears.
Shanmughan provided a new dimension to the part where Dharmaputhra watches Surya disappearing, with a crisp but effective portrayal. Kalanilayam Karunakara Kurup and Yadukrishnan who played the roles of Dhoumya and Lord Surya respectively, lived up to expectations.
The final segment of the days performance saw Lord Krishna visiting the Pandavas. Dharamputhra complains to Krishna about their fate and gently criticises him for his inaction. Hearing this, an enraged Krishna summons his ferocious Sudarshana Chakra to demolish the Kauravas. Seeing the fury of the Sudarshana, Dharmaputhra pleads with Krishna to recall it and he agrees.
The enactment of Pundareeka nayana..., Dharmaputhras padam and the reply of Krishna, Kashtamaho... was notable, especially the part where the King provokes the Lord with a mention of Nanamillayo thava.. (are you not ashamed). Kalamandalam Neeraj did justice to the role of Krishna, while Kalamandalam Arun Raju did well in the role of Sudarshanam.
Voice of experience
The music was led by veteran singer Pathiyoor Sankarankutty who enthralled the audience with his experience and skill, especially in the Kamboji padam Bale kel nee.... He was well-supported by Kalamandalam Krishnakumar and Sadanam Saikumar.
The rendition of Jaya Ruchira... in raga Neelambari and Pundarikanayana..., again in Kamboji, was memorable.
Kalamandalam Venumohan on the chenda and Kalanilayam Manoj and Kalanilayam Rakesh on the maddalam provided perfect percussion support for the actors.
The performance was organised by Sandarsan Kathakali Vidyalayam, Ambalapuzha, as part of their Gurudakshina programme, where Guru Kalamandalam Vasu Pisharodi was honoured.