Kapila Venu’s groundbreaking performance of Parvathi Viraham in Nangiarkoothu takes Koodiyattam to new heights.

When Kapila Venu recently staged the highly sought-after anecdote of Parvathi Viraham in Nangiarkoothu at Natanakairali, Irinjalakuda, few in the audience realized that they were witnessing a path-breaking event in the history of Koodiyattam.

 Traditionally performed by men, feats like Sikhinisalabham, Kailasodharanam, Parvati Viraham etc. highlight the intrinsic techniques of Koodiyattam. As for Parvati Viraham, it is quintessential of ‘Pakarnattam’ (multiple impersonations by a single actor), the contribution of Koodiyattam to the performing arts.

Culled from Bhasa’s Abhishekanatakam, the fifty-minute show is essentially a love-quarrel between Siva and Parvathi.

Admittedly, the Nangiarkoothu style does not anchor on Bhasa’s sloka. According to G Venu who had given directions for the performance, Guru Ammannur Madhava Chakyar had told him that the sloka belongs to Kalidasa. The sloka is, “Moulou kinnu mahesa, maanini jalam kim vaktram ambhoruham………gangadhara: paathu va:”

Parvathi is seated on the lap of Siva. She suspects the presence of Ganga, the latter’s paramour, on his head. So she begins asking Siva, “What is that on your head”? The answer is, “Water”.

Parvathi: But I can see a face there. How can it be?”

Siva: “No. It is a lotus flower”

Parvathi: “But why curls of hair?”

Siva: It is only bees humming and settling on the flower”

Parvathi: “Then what about the eye-brows?”

Siva: “They are ripples in the water”.

Parvathi: “The eyes?”

Siva: “Only two black fishes”

Parvathi: “The two breasts?”

Siva: “Two chakravaka birds”.

Parvathi: “Evidently, you are deceiving me”.

 It was at this moment Ravana had lifted Mount Kailas and started tossing it, on his way back home in the Pushpakavimana after a successful battle with Vaisravana. Kailas posed an obstacle for his journey. The violent tremors of Kailas frighten Parvathi, and she immediately rushes back to Siva for safety.

Spellbinding performance

Kapila’s histrionic virtuosity could be discerned right from the very beginning while reciting the sloka and describing it. The intensity of her jealousy towards Ganga as delineated through her powerful eyes appeared furious. Also a mosaic of emotions of anger, envy, pathos etc. and even her awe to Siva were reflected on her face glaringly. It was evident that she had a penchant for exploring the subtleties to the hilt. The tremors appeared terrific as she enacted it standing on the peedhom. The ascending tempo of rhythms blared out by the mizhavus contributed much to this.

Usually, the transformation to Siva and Parvathi is presented by the male actors by fixing the tip of the costume at the waist for depicting Parvathi and releasing the same for Siva. But here a folded leg resting on the other represented Siva.

Kalamandalam Rajeev and Kalamandalam Hariharan on the mizhavu and Kalanilayam Unnikrishnan on Edakka provided impressive percussion support.

The event followed the ceremony in which the URise Vedic Sangeeta Academy, Bengaluru conferred the title of Nruthya Pithamaha on G Venu.

G S Paul

GS Paul is an eminent art columnist and critic. He has been writing for national dailies such as The Hindu for more than three decades. Currently, he is the Editorial Advisor of India Art Review.

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