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An evening of classical dance: Celebrating Retd. Col. V. Gopalakrishnan's 80th birthday
- Shashank Kiron Nair

May 25, 2023

Retd. Col. V. Gopalakrishnan, a man of simple tastes and profound love for Kathakali, was honored on his 80th birthday with a remarkable celebration organized by his devoted daughters and family. The evening of May 13 was dedicated to the classical dance traditions of Kerala.

Rekha Raju
Rekha Raju

The program commenced with a captivating Mohiniattam recital by Dr. Rekha Raju, a recent recipient of the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar award, and her students. It opened with a Ganesha Stuti, a devotional ode in the raga Ananda Bhairavi, performed by Rekha's students. The graceful movements of Mohiniattam, infused with Rekha's natural vibrancy, beautifully showcased the essence of the enchanting Hamir Kalyani raga in which the Chollukattu was set.

Rekha's next piece was the Bhakti Geetam "Oru neram engilum kannade vaiya", an anthem of the devotees of Lord Guruvayoorappa, paying homage to the beloved deity, struck a chord in the hearts of the audience. The recital concluded with an experimental choreography of the popular ghazal "Aaj jaane ki zid na karo," brilliantly displaying Rekha's command over bhava and abhinaya vocabulary.

The second segment of the evening showcased the majestic art of Kathakali. The presentation began with a dynamic Purappad, a pure dance number characterized by circular and swinging body movements. Accompanied by the soulful rendition of "Rama palaya maam," paying homage to Lord Rama, Prabal Gupta and Sadanam Vipin Chandran delivered a captivating duet, allowing the audience to appreciate the beauty of Kathakali nritta and the contrasting movements performed in purusha vesham and sthree vesham.

Sadanam Vipin Chandran & Prabal Gupta
Sadanam Vipin Chandran & Prabal Gupta

Following this was an excerpt from the classic Kathakali drama 'Narakasuravadham' written by the renowned playwright Karthika Tirunal. Prabal Gupta portrayed the role of the demoness Nakhrathundi disguised as the graceful damsel Lalitha, while Sadanam Vipin Chandran portrayed Jayanthan, the handsome son of Indra. The presentation showcased the scene where Lalitha attempts to seduce Jayanthan, inviting him to engage in the game of love. Lalitha's alluring "sari nrittam" in the Keezhpadam style of Kathakali traditionally used by heroines to entice the hero, set the stage for a dramatic exchange.

Despite Lalitha's persistent attempts to win over Jayanthan, she faces rejection, leading her to reveal her true ferocious identity as Nakhrathundi. In a stunning display of abhinaya, Prabal portrayed the intense confrontation between the characters, without relying on elaborate costumes or props. The climax of the performance unfolded as Nakhrathundi, in an attempt to abduct Jayanthan, charged at him. In a swift move, Jayanthan drew his sword and severed her nose and breasts, leaving the audience on the edge of their seats, captivated by the dramatic conclusion.

The evening celebrating Retd. Col. V. Gopalakrishnan's 80th birthday served as a fitting tribute to his deep love for Kathakali. Through the enchanting performances of Mohiniattam and Kathakali, the audience was transported into a world of artistic expression, spirituality, and intense emotions. The event not only celebrated Col. Gopalakrishnan's milestone birthday but also showcased the richness and vibrancy of Kerala's classical dance traditions, leaving everyone in awe of the cultural heritage that continues to captivate hearts and minds.

Shashank Kiron Nair
Shashank Kiron Nair is a Bharatanatyam dancer, Carnatic vocalist and student of Architecture at BMS College of Architecture. He is a recipient of the Kalashree Prashasti 2017-18 and Karnataka Sangeetha Nritya Academy scholarship 2021-22.

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