Published: 02nd October 2019
Meet this 29-year-old teacher from Coimbatore who has been playing Hidimbi on stage
Gayathri Padmanabhan of Kalanilayam explains her Hidimbi-inspired dramas. The drama is a monologue in which Gayathri plays the lead, Hidimbi
If you ever thought about the brave women in Indian epics, I am sure you will recollect several of their names. But have you ever heard about Hidimbi, a character in the Mahabharata? Although she was a Rakshasi (demon), she fell in love with Bhima, the second born of the Pandavas. Their son, Ghatotkacha, had an important role in the epic. But if a Pandava married a demon who was also accepted by Bhima’s mother, Kunti, then there must be something worthwhile in her character! If you felt a spark and would love to know more about her, then Kalanilayam’s play, aptly titled 'Hidimbi', and enacted by Gayathri Padmanabhan, is a must-watch!
An Assistant Professor at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Ettimadai, Gayathri is well known for her role in Hidimbi. “I got the chance to enact this role when the usual artist backed out. Though I was a dancer, I was new to drama. But I come from a family of theatre artists,” said the 29-year-old. Actively performing this role since 2015, the play is a monologue. You heard that right! Her skill is the only ingredient for the success of the show. “When it is a monologue, it is important to retain the audience's attention throughout the show. Your voice modulation and body language have vital roles here. If it becomes monotonous, how can you expect them to stay put for almost two hours?” asks the academic.
On stage: Gayathri Padmanabhan is an active Bharatanatyam and Mohiniyattam dancer (Pic: Gayathri Padmanabhan)
Dedicating herself to the character of Hidimbi, Gayathri says that their play has a 'creative element' apart from a historical one. What was that, I wondered! “Towards the end of the play, a woman from the current generation comes to the forest with her child. She is a rape victim who is fed up with our society and hence, decided to live in the forest. She talks to Hidimbi and they find their lives to be similar, and eventually she becomes Hidimbi herself! By adding this creative content, we are trying to integrate women from the present generation as well,” explains Gayathri.
Creative addition: To add flavour to the monologue, a small creative element is added (Pic: Gayathri Padmanabhan)
When drama came into her life right out of the blue, how does she perform all these emotions so realistically, I wondered. “Since it is a monologue, I can't afford to forget the dialogues or overdo them as the background music and effects are pre-recorded! It requires practice and dedication. I try to observe everyone around me and this helps me to relate to the emotions of Hidimbi," says Gayathri. Talking more about Kalanilayam, she adds, "Kalanilayam was founded by my grandfather Kalanilayam Krishnan Nair and my grandmother, Kodungaloor Ammini Amma. She was very popular for her amazing roles. She is my inspiration as a drama artist,” says the member of the Coimbatore Arts and Theatre Society (CATS). In an age where 3D and VFX movies are popular, how does Kalanilayam maintain its popularity? “Currently, there are people who recognise the efforts of theatre artists. The fascination towards television and regular movies has reduced considerably. This gives us hope,” concludes Gayathri.