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Unravelling the angst of Karna

Unravelling the angst of Karna

In the last century, several known and unknown writers contributed to the repertoire of Kathakali by penning plays with the dream of placing themselves amongst a galaxy of legendary playwrights such as Unnai Warrier and Irayimman Thampi. Of those newly composed plays, Mali’s Karnasapadham alone withstood the test of time on account of its simplicity, theatrics and rich music. The Ladies’ Kathakali Troupe that emerged in the 1970’s has been staging this play for over a quarter century. The veterans in the troupe came together once again to perform Karnasapadham at T.D.M. Hall, Ernakulam.

Parvathi Menon persuasively portrayed the thiranokku (curtain look) of King Duryodhana and his reading of the anxieties of Bhanumathi on the eve of the Kurukshetra battle. Although at times she appeared to be a wee bit self-conscious, Parvathi’s confidence stood her in good stead. Prameela Vijayan in the role of Bhanumathi depicted the emotional turmoil of the character well. Geetha Varma’s entry as Karna could have been a little more impressive considering he is the protagonist of the play from then onwards. Karna addressing Bhanumathi as his beloved sister, and consoling her, is a situation that goes relatively well with the cholliyattam (structured movements and expressions) of Kathakali.

With her expertise on stage, she should have presented the scene fastidiously. The artiste seemed hassled while enacting Karna’s recollection of his student days under sage Parasurama and the curse that befell on him too. Geetha’s presentation of the dramatic soliloquy of Karna’s Enthiha manmaanase sandeham valarunnu (Why does incertitude grow in my mind?), however, was noted for its restraint and composure.

Scope for performance

The second half of Karnasapadham offers the actors tremendous scope for satwikabhinaya (emotive acting). Radhika Varma who donned the role of Kunthi was in her element for the padardhabhinaya (enacting the meaning of each and every word through hand gestures and expressions). But in the improvisation segment in which Kunthi discloses her reluctant yet inescapable dalliance with the Sun God and her renunciation of the newborn son fearing a scandal, Radhika seemed alienated from the sentiments of the character.

As Dussasana, C.S. Geetha did fairly well. The concluding portion which reaffirms the integrity of Karna to Duryodhana was convincingly presented.

Like any of the other classical art forms, Kathakali too requires the actors/dancers to be constantly conversant with the stage in the absence of which performances tend to become lacklustre.

Vocalists Deepa Palanad and Adrija Varma sang each and every padam adhering to the visual rhythm. Kalamandalam Hareesh on the chenda and R.L.V. Jithin on the maddalam played in tune with the stylistics of the actors.

The play was staged under the auspices of BEAME in association with Ernakulam Karayogam.

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