Prahalada Charithram: the felicity & the flow Though the Bhagavata Mela repertoire contains some brilliant mythological plays, it is Prahalada Charithram that holds immense appeal to the audience. It unfolds the story of Prahalada, the child devotee of Lord Vishnu and his obdurate faith. The emotional conflicts between the devout child and his demonic father Hiranya, who seethes and sizzles at the mention of the very name Hari, explode on the stage with full intensity. And what’s more, you have Leelavathi, Hiranya’s wife who is torn between her love for her child and respect for her husband, to add to the medley of emotions.
Dialogues come in torrents in chaste Telugu interspersed with some nimble movements accompanied by rhythmic beats of the feet and lilting music. The three fundamental components of Bhava,Raga and Tala are in perfect sync elevating the audience to an ethereal experience. Characters in rich costumes deliver their lines with amazing ease sans any prompts. Beginning around quarter past midnight, the play continues until the wee hours of the morning concluding after a protracted wordy duel between Hiranya, the demon and Narasimha, the man-lion incarnation of Lord Vishnu who emanates from the pillar.
Seized by a divine frenzy, the actor playing Narasimha hisses, growls and gnashes his teeth behind the grisly lion mosque. He is rearing to go at Hiranya and is pinned down by a group of people. Not to lag behind, Hiranya (brilliantly portrayed by S.Kumar, a Bangalore-based businessman and brother of ‘Kalaimamani’ S.Natarjan who plays Leelavathi, Hiranya’s wife) teases and taunts the Lord by showering chaste Telugu expletives and is held back from getting too close to his divine bete’noire. Finally when tempers cool, ‘aarthi’ is performed to appease the lion faced Lord.
All the actors descend from the stage and walk through the aisle to the Narasimha temple across the stage to offer their obeisance with the musicians in tow singing hymns in praise of Lord Hari. After formal poojas at the shrine, the cavalcade goes round the village frequently stopped by villagers for performing ‘deeparadhana’. Only after this routine, the play of the day draws to a close.
Well, the Bhagavata Mela has kept going without a break for over 65 years now albeit some highs, lows and upheavals in the socioeconomic and cultural domains. It is a tradition suffused with devotion; an aesthetic effort that elevates the mind to divine heights through a pristine art form. Even in this globalized environment wherein all imported things reign supreme, and anything new is considered to be of value- it has a role, relevance and a place.