Composed by Kilimanoor Rajaraja Varma Koyithampuran, who is a relative of the famous painter, Raja Ravi Varma, the story is in fact a celebration of Ravana, the anti-hero of the Ramayana. The title itself, which means `Victory of Ravana,' describes the essence of the story. The play extols the triumphs of Ravana, which, of course, lead to his ultimate downfall.
`Ravana Vijayam' is considered to be an important work of art among the vast repertoire of Attakathas (Kathakali literature). It is a sample of the paradoxes of Kerala's classical art forms, where the characters usually dubbed as villainous turn out to be the heroes, not quite in disguise. The story depicts Ravana's conquests including the battle with his own brother Vibhishana, who tries in vain to advise him against his unruly ways. After the battle with Vibhishana, Ravana comes across Rambha, the apsarasu (divine courtesan). Attracted by her beauty, Ravana molests her against her will. Then, he defeats Vaisravana, the king of Alakapuri, considered to be the richest among the rich, and seizes his aerial vehicle `Pushpaka Vimanam'. While returning, Ravana uproots Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Siva. However, pleased with all his valour, Siva presents him with the divine sword of Chandrahasa.
Interestingly, a good portion of this Kathakali is performed only through `Ilakiyattam,' through mudras (symbolic gestures of the arms) alone, without any vocal accompaniment. This portion gives ample chance for the actors to explore their histrionic talents. Read more