News & Notes

Kathakali Festival at Bharata Kalanjali

Kathakali Festival at Bharata Kalanjali

By Shobanaa Bhalchandra

Following the brief  kelikottu, naatyacharya V.P. Dhananjayan extended a warm welcome to the distinguished guests. The guest of honour for the evening was A.V. Anoop, the Managing Director of AVP Group of Companies, and among the dignitaries present was Sadanam Balakrishnan, a senior Kathakali guru. During the event, Sadanam Harikumar was bestowed with the title of Kala Bhaskara, with A.V. Anoop presiding over the honours.

The highlight of the evening was the performance of Ekalavya, a rendition of the mythological tale from the Mahabharata, showcasing the theme of guru bhakti, presented by Sadanam Kathakali Academy from Palakkad. Premiered on 2 March 2024, at Bharata Kalanjali, the production transported the audience back to the days of the Mahabharata, providing a visual feast.

The production commenced with a traditional ‘thira sheela’ entrance, portraying guru Drona training his protégé Arjuna in archery. Kalamandalam Neeraj skillfully depicted Ekalavya's hesitant entry with precise body language. Despite Kathakali's reputation for angika abhinaya, Sadanam Mohanan as Arjuna and Neeraj as Ekalayva stood out in effectively conveying the characters. Mohanan's Arjuna displayed arrogance towards Ekalavya, labeling him as unfit to learn an art meant for higher classes.

Ekalavya, in an emotional scene, crafted an idol of Drona from mud, offering it as guru dakshina, demonstrating his guru bhakti. The play unfolded to depict Ekalavya silencing a dog with his arrows, visible only through sound. Arjuna, witnessing this, rushed to his guru suspecting Drona's secret training of an unknown person. The confrontation between Drona, Arjuna, and Ekalavya, portrayed by Kottakkal Nandakumar, Sadanam Mohanan, and Kalamandalam Neeraj, respectively, showcased conflicting emotions and pride.

The climax featured Ekalavya challenging Krishna, portrayed by Kalamandalam Praveen, in a duel. Despite Krishna's attempts to dissuade him, Ekalavya persisted and ultimately met his demise at the hands of Krishna, who looked on with sympathy. The Bharata Kalanjali stage brought the Mahabharata to life, captivating the audience with a mesmerising performance that transcended the length of the play.

The following day, Sadanam Harikumar conducted a workshop on angika abhinaya, providing valuable insights to young professionals. Bharata Kalanjali's mission to make art accessible to the younger generation was evident in their vision to bring it to the Teach Auditorium in Chennai.

(The author is a senior performer, teacher and educator. She is the artistic director of Tharanginee. As an empanelled artist of ICCR, Shobanaa has performed for various prestigious international forums. She is now the creative/executive director of Bharata Kalanjali, Chennai)

Photos courtesy: Bharata Kalanjali & Mohan Das Vadakara