Kathakali by Kerala Kalamandalam  
by An art critic, Chennai 
October 31, 2003   
Marga festival organized by Unnikrishnan and Usha presented a Kathakali show on the inaugural day. Kerala Kalamandalam founded by poet Vallathol Narayana Menon, is an institution synonymous with Kathakali.  Kerala is also known as the land of Kathakali, a rich art form now neglected to the core.

The performance in question Duryodhana Vadham, presented on 17th Sept at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan by Kalamandalam artists, belied the belief and to a total disappointment of Kathakali Rasikas.  It was a hurried run through affair, lacking details of Hasta mudras and communicative Abhinaya for which Kathakali is known. The technique displayed by the artists lacked precision and refinement. The lower parts of the costume (Uduttukettu) was shabby and unlike the real Kathakali Uduttukettu.  It was a sorry affair; whenever a character bent down, the opposite character had to hold the white skirts pulling down to avoid seeing the bums of the person.  

The best part of the show was the musicians and orchestra (Chenda and Maddalam) they really gave their best to please the audience.  Somewhere down the line the dancers were very casual and did not keep up the dignity of the kingly characters they were portraying. They jumped, thumbed the floor, and shook the body bringing some exciting movement in the audience. But that does not make a Kathakali performance worthy of its classicism.   

Ramadas as Roudrabhima was very powerful and the gruesome scene of bringing blood from Dussasana’s stomach reminds one of the present day film obscenity.  Sri Krishna and Panchali were the only two dancers who displayed some Kathakali technique and adhered to the prescribed norms of characterization.  

The Kathakali actors should not under estimate the audience any where and try to play to the gallery by bringing down the classicism, and  mud linking the rich tradition of the great art of Kathakali.  Kalamandalam should seriously consider bringing back the glory of this art form without watering it down to filmy gimmicks.  

Photographs of the Annual Marga Festival - DURYODHANA VADHAM