Madurai Veeran’s story in Nangiarkoothu style for the first time

‘The Story of Madurai Veeran’, a performance by Kapila Venu at the Natanakairali’s restored Kottichetham auditorium in Irinjalakuda.
| Photo Credit: Photo Courtesy: Kapila Venu

Integrating Tamil heritage into the classical Sanskrit theatre form of Koodiyattam is a bold move, as the genre traditionally hails from Kerala. It is recognized that the Chakyars, expert performers of Koodiyattam, originated from Tamil Nadu, yet narratives from the region have seldom featured in Koodiyattam plays.

In this context, ‘Madurai Veeran Kathai,’ a choreographed Nangiarkoothu piece—a branch of Koodiyattam performed exclusively by females—by Kapila Venu, represents an innovative milestone. The captivating one-and-a-half-hour performance was unfolded at the Natanakairali’s revitalized Kottichetham auditorium in Irinjalakkuda by Kapila.

From Warrior Hero to Divine Guardian

The legend of Madurai Veeran, the revered hero of Madurai, is deeply rooted in the folklore of southern Tamil Nadu. His connections with Madurai earned him his prefix, and he is worshipped as the guardian deity by the city’s inhabitants. His acts of valor are celebrated through a plethora of folk tunes, stories, and theatrical productions.

Veeran was a royal by birth but faced abandonment early in life. He was later raised by a couple from the Arunthathiyar community. Maturing amongst them, he rose to serve as a sentinel in the court of Bommanna Nayakan. His reputation soon spread to Madurai, where King Thirumalai Nayakar recruited him to defend the city against banditry.

While in Madurai, Veeran was smitten by Vellaiyammal, a court dancer, who reciprocated his affection drawn to his majestic presence and mastery of arts. After a fateful disguised meeting between the two, they plotted to elope. Unfortunately, Veeran is framed for betrayal, brutally mutilated, and Vellaiyammal, on witnessing his agony, decides to take her own life. However, by praying to the deity Madurai Meenakshi, Veeran miraculously regains his limbs but ultimately accepts his destiny to perish, committing ritual suicide. In recognition of his devotion and heroism, Thirumalai Nayakar erected a shrine in his honor, establishing him as a deity now revered by various Tamil communities.

Kapila’s dramatization and mastery of Nangiarkoothu were showcased in her portrayal of Madurai Veeran.

Kapila’s dramatization and expertise in Nangiarkoothu art were evident in her portrayal of Madurai Veeran.
| Photo Credit:
Photo Courtesy: Kapila Venu

Artful Expression

Kapila designed her act with a strong intention to spotlight critical phases that accentuated her acting prowess and the distinctive techniques associated with Nangiarkoothu. Her eye expressions received noteworthy acclaim.

Particularly commendable was the segment showcasing Veeran’s triumphant entrance into Madurai. Equally remarkable was her enactment skill, simulating the playing of musical instruments like the nagaswaram, thavil, parai, and pambai, elevated by the accompaniment of two mizhavus and edakka.

Kapila, progeny of the skilled exponent G. Venu, captured the nuances of individual characters. Her facial expressions effectively painted a vivid landscape of feelings. Distinctive movements known as charis, typical of Koodiyattam, were predominantly utilized in the portrayal of combat scenes.

Notably, the integration of three verses from Thirukural signifies the embracing of Tamil within the Nangiarkoothu theatrical framework.

Kapila Venu’s ‘Madurai Veeran Kathai’ enacted for the very first time in the Nangiarkoothu tradition.

Kapila Venu’s rendition of ‘Madurai Veeran Kathai’ marked its premiere in the Nangiarkoothu form.
| Photo Credit:
Photo Courtesy: Kapila Venu

Kalamandalam Rajeev and Kalamandalam Hariharan were the mizhavu artists, while Kalanilayam Unnikrishnan played the edakka.

Leave a Comment