Retelling the Urvasi-Pururavas love story for the first time in Koodiyattam

Apr16,2024


Suraj Nambiar, one of the senior disciples of Ustad Ammanur Madhava Chakyar, performing Unmatha Vikramam at Natankairali in Irinjalakuda.

Suraj Nambiar, one of the senior disciples of Ustad Ammanur Madhava Chakyar, performing Unmatha Vikramam at Natankairali in Irinjalakuda. , Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The architects of Koodiyattam, the Sanskrit theater tradition that survives only in Kerala, are the Chakyar community for whom performing the art is 'Kuladharma' (family duty). While the works of various famous poets remain the mainstay of this art form, it is surprising to know that Chakyars have been less enthusiastic about the works of Kalidasa, which are popular throughout the world.

This is the exponent of Koodiyattam, G. It was Venu who broke this tradition and performed Kalidas Abhijnanasakutalam in 2003. The worldwide recognition it received encouraged Venu to stage the first three acts Vikramorvasiyam,

Recently, Suraj Nambiar, an excellent artiste and disciple of maestro Ammanur Madhava Chakyar, surprised the audience by presenting the fourth act for the first time in the history of Koodiyattam. With over three decades of experience in this art form, Suraj premieres his production Unmath Vikraman At Natankairali, Irinjalakuda.

Suraj Nambiar in Unmatha Vikramam was staged on April 6, 2024 at Natankairali, Irinjalakuda.

Suraj Nambiar in Unmatha Vikramam was staged on April 6, 2024 at Natankairali, Irinjalakuda. Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The two-hour solo act was a showcase of Sooraj's theatricality as well as his dexterity as a choreographer.

The play revolves around the events that follow the separation of Urvashi and King Pururava. It shows how the desperate king keeps wandering in the forests in search of her. He mistakes the lightning and dark clouds for a demon who has kidnapped Urvashi. The rain appears to him like a shower of arrows. Enraged, Pururava started throwing mud at them. But soon he realizes that it is monsoon time and calms down.

While traveling through the forest, Pururavas asks the peacocks, cuckoos, swans, elephants and the river about Urvashi. They all seem indifferent to his questions. Finally, he found the Samagamaniya gem (made from the juice of the hibiscus flower flowing from Parvati's feet) among the rocks. Legend has it that this may have aided his reunion with Urvashi.

After this, Pururava embraces a vine thinking it to be Urvashi. The divine power of the gem instantly transforms her into Urvashi, who takes the king to the clouds.

Suraj impressed with this creative illustration.  A scene from their first production, 'Unmatha Vikramam', which they performed at Natankairali, Irinjalakuda on April 6, 2024.

Suraj impressed with this creative illustration. A scene from their first production, 'Unmatha Vikramam', which they performed at Natankairali, Irinjalakuda on April 6, 2024. Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Suraj's experience and creativity came to the fore during the section where he interacts with animals in the forest. While in Koodiyattam the unique technique of 'Pakarnattam' is usually used by the actor to portray multiple characters, here it is used to represent animals and birds. The peacock dance looked grand. The movements of birds, insects, animals and the river were impressive.

Sooraj's choreography deserves special mention. The swara (raaga) artham was chosen to be 'moolaal and paadal' (humming and singing) during his praveshakam (entrance) to describe the mood of the hero. Furthermore, hopping on one foot was an unusual way of expressing the king's emotional turmoil.

Suraj Nambiar performing 'Unmatha Vikramam' at Natankairali, Irinjalakuda on April 6, 2024.

Suraj Nambiar performing 'Unmatha Vikramam' at Natankairali, Irinjalakuda on April 6, 2024. Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The native rhythm of Marma was used for the peacock's gait, which increased the attraction of this scene. Credit must be given to Mizhavu artists Kalamandalam Rajeev and Kalamandalam Hariharan for choosing this.

The performance concluded with the traditional 'Mudiyakkitha'.

The team also included Kalanilayam Unnikrishnan on edakka and Saritha Krishnakumar on percussion.

'Unmatta Vikramam' was the first in-house production presented under the aegis of Tripudi, a new cultural organization formed in the memory of Sooraj's grandmother Brahmin Pattu artiste Savitri Amma.

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