Karnan is my hero, the character I most love in the epic, Maha Bharatham, even better than Arjunan or Tharman. His story is both soul stirring and heart breaking yet edifying. Though immortal I believe Karnan was sent to earth for a purpose to – exemplify noble qualities! And in one evening both the story of my hero and the splendour of Bharathanatyam dance came together in one innovative production – need I ask for more?
Bharathanatyam is an exquisite dance form you would agree, and Naatykalakulanithy, Smt. Vanitha Kugenthiran with her originality, creativity, skill and expertise, not to mention amazing choreography has proved beyond doubt, each time she puts on a show, that she knows how to dig deep into the treasure trove of this versatile and rich art form and take it to incredible heights! The arangetram of Mithuzha Thangavel at the Armenian theatre, Scarborough, Canada, on August 27th 2016, before a rapturous audience, showed the student was up to the task the Guru had set, by her perfect execution of a somewhat demanding and challenging repertoire. It was another thematic presentation, another gem and a winner..This time depicting the story of Karnan. Karnan is my hero, a character I most love in the epic Maha Bharatham, even better than Arjunan or Tharman. I’ll tell you why.
Mithuzha the star of the evening showed in her debut, she has both promise and potential. Undoubtedly this unique presentation was held well together brilliantly by her and undeniably by the skill and finesse of masterful accompanying artists, by some original heart rending lyrics and musical compositions and by an eloquent and erudite master of ceremonies.
Smt. Vanitha Kugenthiran – Nattuvangam, Shri. Ahilan Sivanandan – Carnatic Vocal, Shri. Kugenthiran Kanagenthiran – Miruthangam, Shri. Mithuran Manogaran – Violin, Smt. PrabhaThayalan – Veena, Master. Ajey Kiruba – Gadam, Mr. Balraj Perampalam and Mr. ‘Supu’ – Lyrics, Mr. ‘Supu’ – Musical Compositions and Mrs. Kothai Amuthan – Emcee, together took our breath away.
While the brilliant Kothai Amuthan set the scene, Ahilan Sivanandan, visiting carnatic vocalist living in Australia, now taking Canadian audiences by storm with his marvellous voice and renditions, raised the tempo; ably assisted of course by an extraordinary orchestra, enhanced further by some original lyrics and compositions, especially created for this production – altogether bringing out the required emotions in Mithuzha, the dancer and in turn the audience that stayed connected with her until the very end.
Karnan is my hero and most everyone’s hero I should think, the endearing character from Maha Bharatham, the story of the triumph of good over evil. Why is he my hero, because Karnan epitomised the best attributes, those that I admire most; he was endowed with the finest and noblest qualities that we human beings can only aspire to and even otherwise in testing times would find hard to hold on to.
Karnan showed that in the toughest situations he could remain steadfast to the values and principles of compassion, generosity, kindness, magnanimity, loyalty, gratitude, of true friendship and chivalry. Karnan who had a father, mother and siblings never enjoyed the love of his mother or brothers; though born a prince, was pitiably an orphan brought up by a charioteer in the royal court; conceived out of wedlock, his mother Kunthi, through shame, was forced to abandon him in the river.
The saddest part was that he found himself in the middle of a major conflict between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, two feuding royal families, rejected even by eminent teachers to royalty, who should have known better; his ancestry at first unbeknown to him and everyone else- except Lord Krishna (his mother being Kunthi, the queen of the Pandavas and his father being the Sun God). Although a brave and skilful warrior, and given a principality as a reward by Thuriothanan, the crown prince of the Kauravas and treated with dignity and respect, Karnan was the object of taunts and much scorn all his life, because of his perceived “lowly” birth. Even as the Lord later offered him the kingdom of Hasthinapuram as the eldest progeny of the Pandavas, Karnan, in typical form said he would accept if only the crown was given to Thuriothanan, the loyal and ever grateful friend that he was.
Karnan did not die because he did not have the strength, skill or wherewithal to fight and win the fiercest of opponents; he died because the arrow of Arjunan’s Kandeepam pierced him as he tried to lift the wheel of his chariot from a hole after his charioteer abandoned him, Krishna alerting Arjuna of the most opportune time to ‘kill’ Karnan. Even as he lay dying, his ‘Kavasa-Kundalams’ were craftily taken away from him, all in the course of divine play, so that his soul would depart. A man of unparalleled generosity, Karnan gave it away graciously to Indiran, when asked, who came disguised as a Brahmin. It was so willed that Karnan had a set of ‘Kavasa Kundalams’ – Kavasam – an armour already embedded in his chest at birth, given to him by his father, the Sun God and Kundalams – a pair of ear-ornaments that he earned through his meritorious deeds – that together protected him from any attack, so that he could not be killed.
That’s why, though immortal, I believe Karnan was sent to earth for a purpose to exemplify noble qualities.
Amazingly, the tragic but heart warming story of the ever gallant and noble Karnan ( I classify him noble because of his noble qualities – on the contrary classifying anyone by caste is something I find repugnant – it’s not a measure to judge people in my book, it’s their actions that count) was narrated and portrayed effectively in the ‘Margam’ (repertoire) Guru Vanitha had put together; in one item, the nine different human emotions, known as ‘navarasam’: Sringara – Love, Hasya – Comic, Karuna – Compassion, Raudra – Anger, Veera – Valour, Bhaya – Fear, BhiBhatsa – Disgust, Atputha – wonder and Shanta – Tranquility, that was so part and parcel of Karnan’s life, was so well choreographed by the Guru and wonderfully performed by Mithuzha; similarly, in the scene where Karnan lay dying with an arrow plunged right into his chest, Mithuzha got into the parts demanded of her, dramatising it realistically, performing to the ever popular hit song, “Ullaththil Nalla Ullam”, (from the movie Karnan – one we never tire of listening bringing tears to our eyes every time), but here set to ‘Supu’s musical composition that Ahilan sang so movingly, that simply melted the heart!
It’s incredible that the Margam was arranged following the disciplines set for an arangetram, in traditional Vazhavoor style and I don’t know how Vanitha teacher manages to do it!
Congratulations to Canada’s Kalai Kovil Academy of Fine Arts, for yet another fine presentation and for producing and nurturing young and blooming artists and committed to developing their potential in an admirable way! May the academy’s service grow and flourish.