Stage for Bhakti

‘Bhakthakavi Poonthanam’ centred on the life of Poonthanam Namboothiri.

When Arya Antharjanam broke down holding her dead child close to her breast, the audience held its collective breath in distress. Their eyes filled up upon hearing the reaction of the child’s father, Poonthanam Namoothiri, the legendary poet whose devotion to Lord Krishna was ested by this sudden tragedy… “While little Krishna is dancing in our hearts, do we need little ones of our own?”

The Karthika Tirunal Theatre in East Fort in the capital city resonated with bhakti when Aksharakala Theatres, Thiruvananthapuram, presented a play ‘Bhakthakavi Poonthanam,’ recently. The two-and-a-half hour play was broadly divided into three sections depicting three stages of the poet’s life.

The first stage, in which we see Poonthanam and his wife, Arya Antharjanam, as expectant parents, was depicted with élan. In contrast to the pious Poonthanam is the Casanova-like Karukambalam Kamadevan Namboothiri. The latter’s character provides a much-needed comic relief to an otherwise serious narration. Kamadevan Namboothiri represents dilettantes in society, who despite their lack of knowledge, claim to share equal space with true artistes. But the sequence ends with the tragedy and Poonthanam leaves his house for Guruvayur.

Stirring experience

A scene in which Poonthanam sits on the veranda of an inn listening to stories of filial ingratitude could not have failed to touch the hearts of the audience. For the poet in Poonthanam, it was a stirring experience listening to the common man. He decides to become a bridge for the people to reach the Almighty. Here the play separates into many layers. You can skim the surface, enamoured by the beautiful story or prick up your ears and listen to the muffled voices of the repressed. After his meeting with Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri, Poonthanam becomes the voice of the marginalised. Melpathur, who wrote the great Sanskrit work ‘Narayaneeyam,’ refuses to read ‘Jnanappana,’ Poonthanam’s work in Malayalam.

“It is sad that young people nowadays do not read much about their own culture,” says Meenambalam Santhosh, director of the play.

“Most of them are not aware of our land’s history or its historical figures. Their roots are gone. They don’t know where they belong to, and as an artiste I am troubled by that,” he adds. Aksharakala’s earlier plays such as ‘Kathivannoor Veeran,’ ‘Palattukoman’ and so on, were also on the same line, trying to breathe life into mythological and historical characters.

Since the story of ‘Bhakthakavi Poonthanam,’ is about a great poet, the narrative is punctuated with music and poetry. The costumes and stage props were perfect and in tune with the late 16th century.

Nilambur Mani essayed the role of Poonthanam perfectly while, Koonthalloor Vikraman as Kamadevan Namboothiri was also exceptional. Cherayi Suresh, Shaji Aralummoodu, Anil Menon, Kerala Appu, Anitha and Sreelatha Menon played different roles in the play.

Source: The Hindu

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About Manu Remakant

Manu has written 298 stories in Rum, Road & Ravings. You can read all posts by here.

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