THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Mantharankam, a rarely-staged segment in Kutiyattam, will be presented in the city under the aegis of Kutiyattam Kendra. Kalamandalam Rama Chakyar will perform a condensed five-day version of the segment which lasts 41-days in its original form.
The duration of the performance and the cost involved have rendered the staging of manthrankam a rarity in temples, says K K Gopalakrishnan, director, Kutiyattam Kendra. “The temples where it was traditionally staged are unable to fund such a lengthy performance. Besides, it does not attract sufficient audience to justify the expenditure,” he says.
The segment, in its entirety, was last staged at the Peruvanam temple in Trissur more than half-a-decade ago, the funding of which was taken up by Rama Chakyar. “I was so desirous of seeing the entire segment performed on stage. There were only four or five temples in the state that used to have the ritual and that too had almost died out,” says Rama Chakyar, a disciple of the legendary Painkulam Rama Chakyar.
The text, which is an improvisation on the third act of Bhasa’s Sanskrit play Pratijna-Yaugandharayana, narrates the plot where King Udayana is saved from the prison and this lends the name ‘manthram’ (conspiracy). As the interpretation of the story is left to the chakyar, the effectiveness of the presentation depends almost solely on his articulative skills.
For the same reason, the mastering of mantharankam is regarded as the touchstone for excellence in the artform.
The tenets of the ancient classical theatre tradition considers the part the ultimate exercise in ‘vachikabhinaya’. Along with ‘anguleeyankam’, which is the yardstick for ‘abhinaya’, and ‘purushardhakoothu’, it forms the theoretical base of the Kuitayattam repertoire.
Manthrankam is traditionally not taught to a disciple and this makes it increasingly difficult for it to remain alive. “The student acquires the skill by repeatedly watching the guru perform. It will not be of much help to make it part of a syllabus as it is more a demonstration of individual talent,” says Gopalakrishnan.
Rama Chakyar’s performance will be staged from September 2-6 on the Museum premises at 5pm.