Kathakali was born as Ramanattam in the early 17th century, when Kottarakkara Thampuran presented the Ramayana as eight Kathakali plays. Balivadham is the fifth of these plays and is also the most popular. The play has two distinct parts and both would be enacted in IKKF. In the former half, the demon king Ravana learns about the mutilation of his sister Surpanakha by Rama and Lakshmana. In revenge, and enamored by Rama’s consort Sita, Ravana abducts her with the help of sly magic from his uncle Maricha. A crestfallen Rama sets out through the forest in search of Sita and is eventually spotted by the monkey king Sugriva.

The second part of the play depicts the fierce enmity between the monkey kings (and brothers) Bali and Sugriva. Bali is all-powerful and terrorizes Sugriva to live in exile. The vanquished Sugriva then strikes a friendship with Rama and with his support and encouragement challenges Bali. A fierce duel then ensues during which Rama intervenes and kills Bali. The interaction between Bali and Sugriva (both Chuvanna Thadi characters in Kathakali) and their ferocious battle is delightful for lay persons and connoisseurs alike.