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Dance, Drama and Mythology

May 2005
Dance, Drama and Mythology

A mythical journey into a time-zone that is read of only in scriptures or heard of only through folklore was brought to life in an enthralling dance-drama, performed in the traditional Kathakali style at the Gwinnett Civic Center on the evening of March 26th. "Dussasana Vadham" a small portion from the epic Mahabharata was the theme for this evening. Divided into three scenes, the play began with Draupadi imploring Krishna not to agree to any settlement with the Kauravas but to avenge the dishonor that she has faced at the hands of the Kauravas. Scene two lead the way to the Kaurava courtroom where Duryodhana and Dussasana refused to pay heed to Krishna's requests to assist the Pandavas but instead lead them to try to capture Krishna with the goal to further antagonize the Pandavas. Krishna however with his mystical powers was able to escape from their grasp and now appeared in scene three where he blessed Bhima with the special powers to overthrow Dussasana. Draupadi's curse was fulfilled as Bhima won the battle and bathed her hair in the blood of Dussasana.

Pin drop silence prevailed over the packed auditorium as the audience sat glued to their seats for nearly three hours non-stop mesmerized with abhinaya (facial expressions, which are such an inherent part of Kathakali), the facial masks (with the different colors denoting various mythical characters ? such as a green mask for Krishna, while a red beard for Dussasana), the costumes made of rich silks, the variety of crowns and jewels. All this while the five dance maestros performed flawlessly and with the grace that comes only from years of intense training. The performance had many highlights but one that comes to mind is when Krishna appeared from within the audience in all his finery of stunning gold ? a silence of reverence settled over the auditorium. A few joined their hands in salutation, while others took to their feet in a mark of respect for the Lord who had now descended amongst the crowd. As the drama continued Krishna played his natkhat (mischievous) self ? bringing laughter to the lips of little kids in the audience as he managed to effortlessly stay away from the grasp of the Kauravas.

Setting the mood and bringing in the finer nuances to the performance were the four musicians who surrounded the artists in their traditional attires. Moving all the dancers and the audience through each phase of the play was none other than the vocalist ? who made you cry, laugh, angered and hateful as each piece of the play unfolded. This mood was further enhanced by the strains of classical rhythms resounding from the chengila (gong), elathalam (hand cymbals), chenda (cylindrical double headed drum) and the maddalam (percussion instrument).

Assembling together 10 highly talented artists from various dance and music schools in India on one stage, and organizing an event of this magnitude in 28 different locations over the length and breadth of the United States is no small feat? however the ANAMICA team ? Manoj Kumar, President; Arun Madangarli, Secretary; P.T. Thomas, Treasurer; and Gita Maheswaran, National Coordinator backed with their Advisory Board of Dr. P. K. Nair, Narender Reddy, Sudarsanan Thirumulpad and Bahuleyan Nair left no stone unturned in ensuring a performance that was extremely professionally delivered. Kudos!!! ANAMICA for enriching the city of Atlanta with a performance of this caliber and for bringing across seven seas one of India's greatest art forms, the Kathakali; a hidden treasure from the state of Kerala.

- Rifka Mayani

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