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A captivating Koodiyattom show



Classical art:A scene from ‘Mayaseethankam' Koodiyattom presented by Nepathya as part of its ongoing Koodiyattom festival at Moozhikkulam near Angamaly.

“For a learned connoisseur, a full-length Koodiyattom performance is simply awesome,” gushes noted Indologist David Shulman of Hebrew University, Jerusalem, sitting at Nepathya's Koothambalam in Moozhikkulam to watch the day's part of ‘Mayaseethankam'. Professor Shulman, a frequent traveller to India, is accompanied by nine of his students who are well-versed in Sanskrit and are trying to be ‘ prekshakas'—enlightened spectators—of the classical art.

The ongoing Koodiyattom festival at Nepathya, its third in as many years, is noted for two full-length performances—‘Mayaseethankam', the third part of Sakthibhadra's ‘Ascharyachoodamani' and ‘Balivadham', the first part of Bhasa's ‘Abhisheka Natakam'.

Possibly among the very few to have watched several unabridged Koodiyattom performances, the professor and his team evince a keen interest in learning the nuances of this ‘amazing art'. No wonder that Hebrew University has thrown its weight behind Nepathya, spearheaded by Margi Madhu, to organise the 18-day ‘mahotsavam'. “Our purpose is to help create an audience for full-length Koodiyattom performances here,” says Mr. Shulman.

‘Mayaseethankam', which lay buried for long until revived by Guru Ammannur Madhava Chakyar and Guru Moozhikkulam Kochukuttan Chakyar in 1991, was performed over 10 days till Tuesday. The staging of ‘Balivadham' began with the entry of Sree Rama on Friday. Every night's performance is preceded by a lecture-demonstration by G. Indu, acclaimed Koodiyattom artiste and Nepathya's secretary.

A discussion on the previous night's show is held every morning, making it an interactive affair, especially for the students from Hebrew University. On Day 6 of ‘ Mayaseethankam'— the second day of Koodiyattom—Margi Madhu was on stage as Ravana while Nepathya Saneesh and Nepathya Rahul donned the roles of Soorpanakha and Sootha.

While every bit of it— the conversation between Ravana and his sister Soorpanakha, those between Ravana and Sootha (charioteer), the asides and soliloquies of the characters—was thoroughly enjoyable, the best part was when Ravana began the ‘kesadipada varnana' (head-to-toe description of Seetha).

Recalling his many conquests, including that of the Heaven, Ravana thinks that he has never seen anyone as beautiful as Seetha. Not even Parvathy could match her beauty, he thinks, recalling his brush with Kailasam, the heavenly abode of Shiva and Parvathy. Here Ravana does some ‘pakarnnattam', alternately acting out the roles of Shiva and Parvathy engaged in a conversation.

The festival will end on August 18.

S. Anandan

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