Kirmeeravadham

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Though Ramanattam marked the beginning of Kathakali, it was later in 17th century when Kottayam Thampuran wrote his four plays (collectively called Kottayam Kathakal), that Kathakali came into its own as a theater. Kirmeeravadham thus marks a stage when Kathakali matured as a theater. The play draws from Mahabharatha.

Once again the play has two distinct parts and in the former, King Dharmaputra is the protagonist. He is distressed to see his beautiful consort Draupadi facing hardships in the forest during their exile from the kingdom. He then prays to the sun god who blesses him with a magic vessel. Krishna then makes an appearance and learning about the distress of Pandavas summons his weapon the fierce Sudarshana to annihilate the antagonist Kauravas. Krishna is pacified by Dharmaputra and Sudarshana is sent back. Though the events are fast paced, it is the opening scene between Dharmaputra and Draupadi set to a slow tempo that is the piece de resistance.

The second part brings forth one of the most beautiful and nuanced female roles in Kathakali. Simhika a demoness transforms into a damsel to seek revenge on the Pandavas. The transformed damsel is called Lalitha in Kathakali and is a very interesting character due to the duality of the role. Lalitha lures an unsuspecting Draupadi deep into the forest with the intent of harming her. The artfulness with which she wins the confidence of Draupadi and the interaction between the two ladies makes for delectable theatre.

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