An entry lacking vigor
Text & pics: Hareesh N Nampoothiri

October 16, 2013

‘Mathurapravesam’ in ‘Sree Krishna Charitam’ Nangiarkoothu describes the way Krishna along with his elder brother Balarama entered Mathura, the kingdom of Kamsa. Annie Johnson, a student of Margi Sathi, chose to perform this segment in the Museum Hall, Thiruvananthapuram, for the program jointly organized by the Koodiyattam Kendra of National Academy of Music, Dance & Drama and the Department of Museums & Zoos, Govt. of Kerala. This was the thirty first program in the series   ‘Paithruka Kalaswadana Paripadi’ intended to popularize Koodiyattam and Nangiarkoothu.

The performance started with a samkshepa in which the artiste presented the situation of the story in brief. Krishna and Balarama travel to Mathura along with Akrura, who was sent by Kamsa to invite them for the Dhanuryajna. On reaching the outskirts of Mathura, Krishna along with Balarama and the accompanying cowherds start to roam around. There they meet Kubja, a hunchback and Malakaran, a seller of flower garlands. Pleased by their devotion, Krishna cures Kubja of her physical disability and makes Malakaran rich. In this segment, Annie made best use of the technique of pakarnattam and convincingly acted the roles of Krishna, Kubja and Malakaran in turn.

Krishna and Balarama then make their move to the tower where the bow is kept and worshipped. Simhabala, the doorkeeper, tries to stop them and Krishna kills him. Inside, Krishna lifts the bow and in an attempt to tie the string, it breaks with a loud noise. Then he destroys all the other weapons in store. Annie performed with ease in these portions as well but in places where the pace picked up, she struggled a bit to keep in tune with the rhythm. The next morning, Krishna wakes up hearing the drummers announcing a wrestling match to happen in the metropolis. As the brothers start to move in, they find Kuvalayapida, a gigantic elephant, blocking their way. Krishna orders the mahout to move the elephant out of their way but he provokes the elephant to attack them instead. Krishna beats the elephant down till dead, removes its ivory tusk and kills the caretaker with that. He takes one ivory tusk in his shoulder and hands over the other to Balarama. After this act of valor, they together enter the kingdom of Mathura. The killing of Kuvalayapida can be considered as the climax of this particular narrative, but Annie's presentation here failed to reflect the true gist of the scene. The act could have been much more detailed and intense. To make things worse, the headgear became loose and kept slipping down her head. “Though Annie is learning the art form for more than eight years, this is only her fifth stage appearance in Nangiarkoothu,” said her guru Margi Sathi.

Prior to the performance, Sathi briefly explained the story and illustrated the major mudras to be used in this act making it easy for the audience to understand and appreciate the art form. Annie was well supported by the percussionists Kalamandalam Sajikumar and Mahesh (on mizhavu), Kalamandalam Mohanan (on thimila), Anayara Vijayan (on edakka) and Vishishta (on cymbals).

Hareesh N Nampoothiri is a visual design consultant by profession and a lover of classical art forms. Being an ardent follower of Kathakali, he conceptualized and directed a documentary on Kathakali titled 'Thouryathrikam,' which introduces the nuances of Kathakali to the common man. Writing and photography are his other passions.