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Karnashapadham

January 11, 2011

Nothing was ever forgotten on this quaint piece of land, which until the turn of the last century was cut from the main heartland of Cochin.

Fort Kochi was a place steeped in tradition, in history and a long past! Chinese fishing nets, old cobbled alleys and an ancient spice bazaar surrounded by the soothing backwaters, it was an island known for its diverse multicultural society and it was a Mecca for tourists from all over the globe, who were drawn to its magnetic pulse.

Scattered liberally with temples, mosques, churches and a very prominent Jewish synagogue, which was built over 500 years back with a declaration made at that time that the synagogue would stand for as long as the world, sun and moon endure; the place spoke volumes for the religious harmony that existed in the land.

Hence, it was only apt that the Kerala Kathakali Kalakshetram, an institution which celebrated the fine arts, was built in that part of town.

It was a warm Saturday evening and as the man waited patiently backstage, he told himself, “It is time to focus now! Naatyam (expressions), Nritham (dance), Nrithyam (enactment), Vaadhyam (musical instruments) and Sangeetham (vocals) all go hand in hand, complement each other to make a good performance. Don’t mess it up!

And pretty soon, the soulful vaadhyam started to play accompanied by the sangeetham and it was cue for him to start!

With that, Harikrishnan Pillai walked onto the stage; taking confident steps towards the center. The costume and the makeup, which weighed him down was never a problem. He had gotten used to them over the years since the age of 8; he even enjoyed the painfully intricate and time-consuming makeup.

The hall had about thirty people in it mostly foreigners who were all going to see their first Kathakali performance; and they all looked on expectantly. There was excitement in the air and he could sense it.

Today, he was in the noble pacha vesham about to enact the role of Karnan in the timeless epic “Karnashapadham” (Karna’s Vow), his favorite piece!

And very gradually as the play progressed, he was transported into another world. He lost track of time; space and the audience watching him. He was in his own world; a world steeped in mythology and the actors in front of him were no longer his friends but the characters of the great epic; Duryodhanan, Kunti, Bhanumati and Dussasanan and the emotions that he went through were real!

And finally after an eternity, it was over and he walked away to a thunderous applause.

He made his way back to his trailer and sat there; exhausted. It had always happened to him after a performance.

After sometime, he heard a knock on the door and he went over and opened it.

A young madama, who was standing outside said, “Hi, I am Elizabeth, a reporter for a travel magazine. Can I speak to you for a few minutes?

He invited her in, and waited for the opening salvo.

She said, “I had specifically read the Mahabharata and about the play before coming for this show and though I could only understand parts of the play, I still found it riveting.”

Thank you.”

She then asked, “I also read that this tradition dates back hundreds of years. How long have you been doing this?

He replied, “I have been doing particular play for many years now but still have not mastered it.

She asked, “But do you ever get bored playing the same character again and again?”

Madam”, he said with a serene look on his visage; “It was not me up there dancing and emoting! The person you saw up on the stage was Karna!”

But what did you infuse into this dance? What about your individuality? I don’t get it,” she asked, intrigued.

To which he replied, “That is not required; these characters are timeless and they live within all of us. The emotions that get depicted on stage are just but mirrors of our inner self; the emotions that get manifested in all of us from time to time.”

Interesting,” was all she said.

To which he replied with a discerning smile, “Let me simplify what I said. What you saw on stage was not just Karna’s vow; it is mine as well and someday, will be yours as well!

With that, he looked back at the mirror and continued to carefully remove his make-up.

PS: Listening to this now.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. January 11, 2011 6:39 am

    Brilliantly written by Ezhuthukaran, yet again.

    What I loved was the very simple yet profound ending… (how all profound thoughts are actually so simple, is beyond me, by the way!)

    It could have been said in 1000 words, or in a few, like you did here.
    OG: danku!

  2. January 11, 2011 7:19 am

    haa good to see this Author Bhaavam of yours once again. You are an encyclopaedia in yourself alle? from lub advice to Kathakali mudras…you know it all 😛
    OG: I like reading 😛
    In a short comment “I loved it” 🙂
    OG: danku!

    • January 12, 2011 8:02 am

      LOL @ ‘author bhavam’. OG, you’re getting very good at this… fiction based on mythology… your niche, methinks.

  3. January 11, 2011 5:05 pm

    If you cant convince them, confuse them huh? 😀 😀 😀 😀

    Just kidding, as usual, wonderful OG ! 😀
    OG: haha, thanks

    • January 12, 2011 6:07 am

      Brilliant!! Master story-teller as usual 🙂

      And the simple explanation he gives her….speaks so much!! So true!

      P.S.: Karna is one of my favourite characters in the Mahabharata btw! 🙂
      OG: it is he is the fav of millions ard! thanks!

    • January 12, 2011 6:08 am

      Er…dey!! 😀 That is the usual saying attached for consulting business which we use regularly:
      “If you can’t convince the client, then confuse them! ” 😀 😀 😀
      OG: 😛 😛 😛

  4. January 12, 2011 6:38 am

    Brilliant…..you seem to be more attached with mythology and history na ??
    OG: yeah!
    Loved the explanation….finally, we are only playing a part in this role called life….
    OG: 😛 😛

    • January 12, 2011 6:40 am

      I am seriously thinking of watching a Kathakali performance soon – thanks to this post, OG. 🙂

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