Nala Charitam : Kathakali by Kalamandalam Gopi – Jivan Pani Festival, a set on Flickr.
It was a great idea to have Kalamandalam Gopi as part of the festival presentations. A master and arguably the best in the field of Kathakali today, artistes of this dance drama form rarely get a slot in solo festivals.
Unsurpassed in his Kathakali characterisation of Nala from Unnayi Varrier’s “Nala Charitam”, considered the greatest Kathakali play ever, the soliloquy in scene I where Nala expresses his unrequited desire and frustration, his love for Damayanti a pent up flame, was mimed with an intensity which made the audience have a sense of horripilation. Just a clenched fist or thumb rubbing against fingers along with mukhabhinaya said so much.
Evoor Rajendran Pillai of the International Centre for Kathakali as the Hamsa (swan) joined him in the next scene. For those less familiar with this dance form in the audience, it was a wonderful opportunity to see how the characters based on animal species, but very human in behaviour patterns, are fleshed out in the movement dialogue. After persuading the Hamsa to act the love messenger by conveying to Damayanti at Vidharba his feelings, Nala’s thoughts are lost on contemplating on the loved one “Kamini, Roopini, Sheelawati” Damayanti. The abhinaya spinoffs were in a class by themselves.
The music was no less — singers Pathiyur Sankarakutty and Tripunithura Arjun Rajendran combining seamlessly in the tunefully rendered Kalyani, Begada, Todi and Kamboji. Kalamandalam Unnikrishnan on the chenda and Parassinikkadavu Manoj on the maddalam provided the percussion support. –
Dr. Leela Venkataraman, Dance Critique, THE HINDU