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Awareness through satire

A 400-year-old Koodiyattom play highlighted the potential of this ancient art form in tackling social evils through satire.



Bridging the odl and the new: A scene from Matha Vilasom Prahasanam.

MATHA VILASOM PRAHASANAM, a 400-year-old Koodiyattom play, was performed in Thiruvananthapuram, recently. Matha Vilasom is usually performed in temples in Malabar as a ritual, where it is performed as an offering to the Gods.

The colourful costumes is one of the main attractions of the art form. Normally, the costumes in Koodiyattom are Pacha or Kathi, depending on the character. But in this performance, the costumes and make-up were more true to life. This gave the recital a contemporary touch as it helped the viewers to relate the story to more modern times. The two-day performance was jointly organised by the Cultural Department and the Thiruvananthapuram-based cultural organisation, Margi.

This is the first time that Matha Vilasom, which was written by the Pallava King, Mahendra Varman, in 700 AD, was performed in the capital city. Usually, the play is performed over seven days.

Performance manual

The new performance manual was provided by P.K. Narayanan Nambiar, son of Mani Madhava Chakyar. The `Nataka Bhaga' (drama section) of the play was re-constructed and choreographed by Nambiar and this new style was presented five years ago at Killikurissimangalam. Nambiar had rearranged the drama part with some relevant slokas and attoms from the old text of the play. He had taken some of the acting manuals and texts from different Koodiyattom versions.

The first day's recital was at Theerthapadha Mandapa. It depicted Sathyasoma, wherein Kapali, a devotee of Lord Shiva, worships the Lord in his own rustic fashion by consuming liquor and dancing. Sathyasoma and his companion, Devasoma, come to the stage in a drunken state. However, Sathyasoma is distraught when he unable to communicate with his companion on account of his intoxicated state. Although he decides to abjure alcohol, Devasoma persuades him to go in search of a liquor shop. A beautiful description of Kacheepuram town of the seventh century follows as they move through the city in search of a liquor shop. Margi Narayana Chakyar as Sathyasoma and Margi Sathi as Devasoma, portrayed their roles effortlessly.

The second day's performance was held at Vyllopilli Samskriti Bhavan. It opened with the entry of Pasupatha. Sathyasoma loses his `Kapalam' (begging bowl made of a skull) and while searching for it, he meets a Buddhist monk and wrongly accuses him of having taken the skull. In the end, Pasupatha brings about an amicable settlement. The final message of the whole `Prahasana' (satire) is against liquor. Kalamandalam Unnikrishnan Nambiar, Margi Ramanunni and Unnikrishnan were the mizhavu artistes. Kalamandalam Raveendran, Margi Rama Chakyar and Harish Nambiar were the other performers on stage. Margi Subrahmanian Potti accompanied on the edakka and Margi Usha provided the thalam.

Vinu Vasudevan

Photo: C. Ratheesh Kumar

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