Maestros who immortalised Kalamandalam

   
   
 

Pattikkamthodi Ravunni Menon

 

Of the several schools of learning prevalent in Kathakali at present Kalluvazhi school alone can claim universal recognition and prestige. Kalamandalam is the pioneering institution preserving and promoting the Kalluvazhi school of Kathakali. The late Pattikkaamthoti Ravunni Menon was its doyen. He chiselled the techniques of acting in Kathakali in tune with the text and context of the Kathakali plays. Credit for integrating vocal and instrumental music in Kathakali to its visual rhythm goes exclusively to Ravunni Menon. Menon joined Kalamandalam as the Head of the Faculty of Kathakali in 1933 at the invitation of Poet Vallathol. Ravunni Menon breathed Kathakali and became the mentor of all the outstanding artists in the field. Menon gave his inestimable services to Kalamandalam till 1943. His demise in 1948 was an irreparable loss to Kalamandalam and to the art of Kathakali.

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Thakazhi Kunchu Kurup

 

An apostle of the south school of Kathakali, Kunju Kurup joined Kalamandalam as a faculty member from the very begining along with Pattikkamthodi Ravunni Menon. Vallathol was extremely fond of Kurup whose enactment of the heroic charecters like Nala, Bahuka, Rukmangada, Bhima and Arjuna was unparalleled in facial expressions and characterization. He was recipient of the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and the Padmabhooshan.

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Thiruvillwamala Venkichan Swamy

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The indigenous percussion ensemble in Kerala received a scientific tone and temperament in the early decades of the 20th century under the creative guidance of a few titans. One among them was Thiruvillwamala Venkichan Swamy

Hailing from theThruvillwamala village of Thrissur District, Swamy became the greatest exponent of Maddalam both in Panchavadyam (temple orchestra) and in Kathakali. Poet Vallathol welcomed him to Kalamandalam in the 1930s. As an exemplary teacher and peerless performer, Swamy soon became the cynosure of all eyes. He systematized the performance of Maddalam in Panchavadyam and Kathakali. But for him, Panchavadyam and Kathakali Maddalam would not have received a scientific structure and syllabi. Swamy taught both Maddalam and Chenda at Kalamandalam. His contributions to the percussion ensemble of Kerala are preserved and promoted by his distinguished disciples.

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Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair

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Krishnan Nair is one of the first offsprings of Kalamandalam. Hailing from North Malabar he learnt the rudimentary lessons of Kathakali under Guru Chandu Panickar at the Varanakkottu Mana near Kannur. Vallathol brought him to Kalamandalam in 1930 where he recieved rigorous training in Kathakali under the titan Pattikkaamthoti Ravunni Menon. As he grew up Krishnan Nair was carried away by the grace and emotive acting of Thakazhi Guru Kunchu Kurup. Krishnan Nair left Kalamandalam in the early forties and moved to south Kerala. He was soon to become the most popular free-lance artiste in Kathakali. He combined stylized and realistic acting in the stage presentation of the major Kathakali characters. Endowed with an expressive face, elegant appearance and a romantic-cum-humorous approach to characters Krishnan Nair easily became the mega-star in Kathakali. He was more at ease with emotionally charged characters like King Nala, Rukmaangada and the major brahmin characters than with technically disciplined characters such as Dhramaputra, Raavana and Narakaasura. Krishnan Nair, who won many titles and honours like Padmashree and Central Sangeet Natak Academy Award, passed away at the age of 78. The latter part of the history of Kathakali in the twentieth century has a lot to comment on the sterling performances of Krishnan Nair and his immense popularity.

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Kalamandalam Neelakantan Nambisan

 

Like Krishanan Nair, Neelakantan Nambisan is one of the oldest offsprings of Kalamandalam. He was the first student to learn Kathakali Music from Kavassery swamikutty Bhagavathar and Mundaya Venkitakrishna Bhagavathar, then teacher at Kalamandalam. It was Venkitakrishna Bhagavathar who revolutionized Kathakali vocal music by restructuring its mode of rendition and introducing appropriate ragas for the evocation of the many moods of characters and for contextual emotions. Bhagavathar passed his style and knowledge on to his intimate disciple Neelakantan Nambisan. Nambisan with a missionary zeal developed the music of his Guru and popularized it far and near. Nambisan was not only a celebrated vocalist, he was also a highly disciplined teacher. The most favored voices in the field of contemporary Kathakali Music have their source in Nambisan. He retired as Principal of Kalamandalam in the early eighties and was the hero of Kathakali Music till his passing away in 1985.

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Kalamandalam Krishnan Kutty Poduwal

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Krishnankutty Poduwal was the all time greatest percussionist in Kathakali. Belonging to the temple-caste family of percussionists, Poduwal learnt the basics of chenda and edaykka from his uncle Govinda Poduwal at the village Vellinezhi in Palakkad District. Afterwards he joined Kerala Kalamandalam and continued his studies under Venkicchan Swamy, the maddalam maestro. Poduwal studied the visual grammar and rhythmic- culture of Kathakali under Pattikkaamthoti Ravunni Menon. He then re-interpreted the role of chenda in Kathakali. Poduwal traced on chenda even the subtle emotions of characters, provided musical sentiments to romantic scenes and prompted the actors do their best on stage. His holistic understanding of Kathakali helped him integrate music to every visual note. This was a matchless achievement. Poduwal retired as professor at Kalamandalam in the late eighties. He was the first percussionist in Kathakali to receive the Central Sangeet Natak Academy Award. He passed away a few years later.

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Painkulam Rama Chakyar

 

When Kalamandalam introduced Kutiyattam in its curriculum Painkulam Rama Chakkyar was invited to head the Faculty. (Painkulam is the name of a village near Kalamandalam.) Chakyar was then well-known all over Kerala as one who boldly brought Koothu outside the temple-precincts. Rama Chakyar was a maverick. He therefore fully supported the institutionalization of Kutiyattam. Chakyar encouraged aspirants from all communities to study and practice Koothu and Kutiyattam, the classical Sanskrit theatre. Besides being an artiste Chakyar was a scholar and sahridaya (connoisseur). He made the first successful attempt to synchronize the acting in Kutiyattam with the music of Mizhaavu, the main percussion instrument. Chakyar edited several Sanskrit plays including Bhagavadajjukam of Bodhayana for presentation to the common audience. Rama Chakyar was at his best in the role of Vidooshaka in Kutiyattam. Verbal Acting was his forte. Humour was his passion. He devoted his entire life to Kutiyattom and mented some talented artists to carry on the tradition. Rama Chakyar and his troupe at Kalamandalam toured Europe and the US several times and presented Kutiyattam to the western audience. This resulted in gaining international recognition to this theatre-tradition.

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Thottasserry Chinnammu Ammu

 

Mohiniyattam, the sole female classical dance of Kerala was nearly extinct towards the dawn of the twentieth century. For poet Vallathol it was a hard task to find Mohiniyattam teachers for imparting training at Kalamandalam. Responding to his invitation Thottassery Chinnammu Amma came to Kalamandalam in 1950. She had by then forgotten most of the items of Mohiniyattam she had learnt during her formative period. Chinnammu Amma gradually recollected several items which helped the restucturing and systematization of Mohiniyattam initiated by Vallathol with the collective support of its vocalists and instrumentalists. Chinnammu Amma was graceful in appearance and movements even in old age. She taught at Kalamandalam a group of promising dancers. Kalamandalam Satyabhama, Chandrika, and Kshemavathy the leading dancers of the successive decades, are the contributions of Chinnammu Amma to Mohiniyattam.

   
 

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Kerala Kalamandalam
Deemed University for Art and Culture
Cheruthuruthy – 679 531 via Thrissur, Kerala, India
Telephone: 91+ 4884 262418, 262562, Fax: 91- 4884 - 262019

 

www.kalamandalam.org
Email: info@kalamandalam.org

 

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