Utsavam IKKF 2015 – A VIEWER’S OVERVIEW
-by Dileep Kumar
Here is an account of the just-concluded IKKF extravaganza, being one of the spectators almost throughout the 4-odd days. It is a usual practice that the performances are evaluated before anything else. In this years’ Utsavam two things most impressed this author instantaneously, so much so, that he is prompted to comment on them first.
a) Kathakali Artist Management vis-à-vis Characters to be represented
Presenting all the four Kottayam plays with just 8 actors was really appealing – especially in Bakavadham and Kirmeeravadham, which were presented almost in full, without effecting an over strain to any of them, and by providing sufficient rest time between the role – yet selecting the apt actor for each role. The Artist Manager does deserve a pat for this absolutely meticulous selection
b) Kathakali Costume Management
All those who have witnessed the Kathakali performances would not have a difference of opinion on how wonderful the costumes were (Koppu) on the stage, suiting to each individual performing. But, then that could be seen elsewhere. But what was unique was that, Shri Pallippuram Unnikrishnan had brought just 2 “Keshabharam”, one each of “Kuttichchaamaram” and “Kari Mudi” and two “Krishna Mudi” – Not only that – “Uduthukettu” for just five. What was impressive was that, the Costume Master was absolutely confident that he would be able to manage the show – as disclosed by him in a private conversation to the surprise of his listeners
What follows, however in not in order of priority, but just as they came to my mind
No one needs to introduce Usha Nangiar. And, many have viewed her creation entitled “Draupadi”, whereby the most prominent female character of the epic has been represented in three of her very critical moments of life – the two of which actually decided the evolution of the epic itself. However, she was bringing out Draupadi, not by just remaining as the lady, but by becoming other characters and beings – all culminating into the central charisma. The performances in fact absolutely followed her reputation. She was so ably supported by Hariharan, Rajeev and Unnikrishnan. All the percussions so minutely followed the movements of the actor in such a way that the audience, in fact, felt that the sounds were generated by the actors’ body. The little Athira’s rendering of verses was absolutely traditional and very clearly pronounced.
Presentation on Kottayam Plays
It was, closer to a presentation than a demonstration, albeit wonderfully planned, enlighteningly explained and demonstrated without deviating a bit from the theme. The narrator’s commendable command over the language combined with his knowledge about the art, eloquence and of course, the preparedness paved the way for the success of all the three presentation. Guess, who supported him to demonstrate the words – KALAMANDALAM BALASUBRAHMANIAN – the well trained, widely recognized actor a trainer himself. It would be imprudent not to say that the IKKF audience has been given much more than what they expected. Apart from the maestro, it was not just beginners who came to delight the audience with demos – Shanmukhadas, the one nearer the top rung of popularity and Vinod, a very energetic performer.
To be precise, all the plays were presented in the prescribed manner and all the actors put up their best both on the stage and off it.
Veteran Kavungal Divakara Panicker’s roles, Bakan and Nakrathundi, a slightly different, but appealing style could be enjoyed by the viewers. The demon-lady, in fact, concealed his age – short, yet so swift, yet so sweet.
No words of praise would bring out the performance of Balasubramanian in totality and this space would not be enough to adequately portray him and this writer is not knowledgeable enough to comment the technicality of the same. But, what he could vouch is that, Bheeman (Bakavadham), Lalitha (Kirmeeravadham) and Arjunan (Kalakeyavadham), took the entire auditorium to another unbelievable, unrealistic, but rejoicing world of acting.
Most of the viewers of the IKKF are familiar with Shanmukhan’s performances and all of the viewers were guaranteed about the outcome even in advance. However, here Shanmukhan or rather the characters he represented lived beyond their expectations. Especially impressive were his Kamyakavanam Dharmaputhra and Urvashi. The other ones, Sowgandhikam Bheema and Bakavadham Lalitha too did attract the attention of the viewers
Manoj’s exposure to drama acting added flavour to his roles that are structurally well defined. His effortless enactment of miner did deceive viewers – on the efforts that he had to take to show effortlessly the humorous entry, Kalashams, padam enactment and cavern preparation. Later as Vedavyasa, he demonstrated how Veda Vyasa should behave in Bakavadham to Bheema in the presence of Hidumbi. Probably, as Brahmin (Bakavadham) the drama-effect minutely surfaced without leaving its effect on the seriousness of the role. His Hanuman, Dhowmyan and Kirmeeran were also eye-pleasing and so was Mathali
Vinod, as mentioned earlier, was energetic in all his appearances. Of course, the characters that he represented demanded them too. First and Last Bheeman (Bakavadham), first Bheeman (Sowgandhikam), Sudarshanam, second Arjunan (Kalakeyavadham) – all these displayed in an inimitable style here
The pre-event Poothana was a performance watched not only by the regular viewers but by distinguished officials of the Consulate too. Most of them conveyed their appreciation towards the successful depiction of the gorgeous one entering Ampadi and attempting to exterminate the exterminator. Later, as Kunthi (Bakavadham), Panchali (Sowgandhikam and Kirmeeravadham) and Sakhi (Kalakeyavadham), the lady displayed discipline of enactment. That’s the summary of the participation of Haripriya Namboodiri
The catch of the IKKF would remain young Adityan. What dynamism! Even before senior artists such as Divakara Panicker and Manoj, he was just Sahadevan and Bheeman respectively, and not the actor. His Khatothkachan, to be honest, represented exactly how the playwright has prescribed – “ജാതമാത്രസജലാഭ്രസപ്രഭ സുജാതവൃത്തായതപീനദോർബലഃ” – attaining qualities of a grown man by birth itself. His other roles, Krishna (Sowgandhikam), Krishnan and Bheeman (Kirmeeravadham) and Indran (Kalakeyavadham) too showed a promise for future Kathakali stages
Praveen’s first appearance was as Dharmaputhra and Brahmin’s wife (Bakavadham), Sooryan, Durvasavu and Indrani. All the roles displayed quality
Playbacks for Kathakali – Kottakkal Narayanan, Babu Namboodiri, Nedumbilly Ram Mohan, Vengeri Narayanan and the young Sreerag – all of them, without an exception – so-operated the performers so well that most of the actors would have found it easy to emote the relevant feelings. Kottakkal Narayanan in combination with Raman Namboodiri singing the “Manjuthara” was traditional, yet felt new. The former’s deliverances were especially noticeable in the earlier parts of Kirmeeravadham and Kalakeyavadham. The rapport between the singers were so binding that the change-overs were not noticeable at all.
Percussion support for all the plays – this should also have been mentioned earlier – was unconditional and expression-enhancing. Led by Raman Namboodiri, on chenda were Sadanam Ramakrishnan, Panamanna Sasi and Kalanilayam Unnikrishnan. Sadanam Ramakrishnan needs special mention for he was forced to be present by circumstances. All of them managed to create an atmosphere in which the actors could bring out their best. Well done, all of them. Maddalam wing was led by Prakash and supported by Bharatharajan and Hariharan. They too co-operated among themselves and others on the stage and helped pick the minute movements of the actors.
As usual for all IKKF events, the green room artists put in their best. The costume aspect has been mentioned earlier. Their impeccable beauty could catch anyone’s eye. And so were the chutties. Pallippuram Unnikrishnan, Kannan, Saji and Erooor Manoj consisted the team that “Created” characters. Well done – all of them. My head bows towards the brilliant endeavour they put in
This innovatively composed program initiated by Panamanna Sasi was a new experience for the IKKF. I do not know whether this has been attempted elsewhere. However, it had freshness in itself. Two singers, two each maddalam, thimila, chenda and mizhavu, along with one edakka participated in this fusion of music and percussions. A few stanzas of the twenty-second Ashtapadi commencing with “രാധാവദനവിലോകനവികസിത” —- “राधाविलोकनविकसित—“ were recited by the singers and like Melappadam , the percussionists played in between them. The difference was that, the filling in commenced with “Thriputa” Thalam, moved on to pathinja atantha and some others. After the singing was completed, like Melappadam, the percussionists showed their further skill in Chempata, and finished off like Thayampaka.
I had heard a few apprehensions about the performance of Chirakkal Nidheesh. But the very first introductory “Mukham” must have proved them wrong, for sure. The youngster, with a well-practiced pair of palms created awesome changes of moods with an aim to the zenith of speed and clarity. Panamanna Sasi needs no special mention. His ability to take the audience under control is well known. The ease with each the stick and palm move, at the appropriate positions at the appropriate occasion at an appropriate pace still created wonder. No doubt, their double performance, the concluding event, left the audience both rejoiced and excited
However, that also left all those who had a feel of IKKF gloom – for the curtain was drawn——–