It is with quite a bit of trepidation that I venture back in here again, after letting this blog of mine languish for an unpardonable stretch of time -it’s been two and a half years since my last post! Let us just say that in the midst of chasing through the trials and tribulations of marriage, work and life in general, this sahrudayan bit of me got left behind somewhere along the way, gathering mold and dust as days went by. I thrust it firmly to the dark recesses of my mind, and told myself that the handful of regular readers I'd had would have also forgotten about my blog and moved on.
All until a few days back, when, in a desperate bid to clear up my blogger dashboard (I’d created more than half a dozen blogs in different times in my life, all of them relapsing to rigor mortis after the initial post or two!) I clicked on this long- forgotten link, only to find the (only) two posts in the blog chock-a-block with comments! Even though my heart soared for that fraction of a second when I saw the double-digits under each post, it quickly sank and lodged itself like a forlorn weight in my belly - most of it was spam, of every conceivable sort -Bollywoodgossip, eroticvideos, travelsites, and even a longer-than-my-post comment on blue cheese! However, after another half hour of painstakingly sifting through and deleting, what remained was a steady flow of comments that had kept coming in all through the last two years, up until yesterday... What can I say- I'm extremely thankful to you for dropping by, humbled by your extravagant praise, and grateful for the new lines of discussion at least some of you have opened within the comments forum. And of course, profuse apologies for not having replied to any of the comments earlier - it was presumptuous of me to think you'd forget this forum as quickly as I thought you would.
One of my remarks that seem to have sparked a heated debate within the readers is that I found Gopiasan's Karnan worthy of the kind of praise that I showered upon him in my post on Karnashapadam. TK Sreevalsan from Madras writes that Shri Kal.Gopi shows "a callow teenager's mindset",that the way he overacts in "next only to Sivaji Ganesan" and that Shri Vasu Pisharody is the only one today that as the "gravitas" to pull off such an act convincingly. Mr Rajkumar from Trishur, however, reacts to this statement with vehemence, stating that Shri Sharody is but "a normal actor", while Gopi asan is "great" and "beyond compare". Valsan SP tries to hold on to a middle ground ("I'm a great fan of Sharody Vasu's chitta as well as of Gopi asan's creativity), while Arungopal seems to stand firm by Shri Vasu Pisharody.
According to me, Gopiasan and Shri Vasu Pisharody are two actors of equal emminence who have carved their own distinct style in bringing a character to life. Shri Vasu Pisharody uses his bedrock of expansive knowledge and his fastidious adherence to chitta as a springboard to get under the skin of the character, while Gopiasan uses all the tools of his art with utmost flexibility to do the same.
Shri Vasu Pisharody may not stray from the strict boundaries of the art form, and may doggedly follow the same trajectory followed by his asans before him, but his in-depth knowledge of the katha and the character at hand lends an intensity and depth to his attams/manodharmams that is truly exceptional. It has been close to a decade since I saw Shri Vasu Pisharody’s Karnan last, but I’ll never forget the manodharmam in his scene with Bhanumati,"Do not let your mind wander like a wild horse- Rein it in firmly like a warhorse (padakuthira)”.
Gopi asan, on the other hand, pushes the boundaries of chitta, gives himself to the melodrama of the situation and thoroughly plays to the gallery, erupting in fury at one moment, weeping copious tears the other and using manodharmams that are sure to tug at the emotional strings of the audience as a whole.
I find it impossible to compare one with the other- each gives me complete satisfaction as a viewer, albeit in entirely different ways. Be it Shri Vasu Pisharody with his restrained and intellectual performance, or Gopiasan with his emotional, melodramatic one, both of them succeed in infusing life and soul into the character. What really gets my gut, instead, is when supposedly senior actors like Kal. BalaSubrahmaniam, (inspite of his veshabhangi, grooming and experience) goes overboard both in terms of chitta and manodarmam, but still cannot manage to portray a character that is not soulless, shallow or fake.
Try as we might to dissect the performances of these stalwarts objectively, it remains that Kathakali is an artform, and like other form of art, can, in all truthfulness, only be viewed subectively. To each performer, his virtues and vices and to each viewer, his personal favourites. We can only but continue nit-picking until we learn to see and accept both sides in equal measure. So, let the debate go on... :)