Homage to the Maestro

I write this post after seeing the breaking news on television just now – “Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair passes away”. An enchanting and amazing Kathakali performer, it goes without saying that he was one of his own kind. Kathakali is the finest traditional and finely stylized dance-drama form of Kerala. It has lively sopanam style music accompanied to the rhythmical beats of percussion, vibrant and colourful costumes that goes with the nature of the character personified, the elaborate make up, the graceful dance with eloquent gestures or mudras and the brilliantly executed navarasa expressions. I have had opportunities of seeing this amazing artist who breathed life into the very many roles he had enacted on stage.

I am reminded of the 70s and 80s when I was growing up in my rustic home village of Pallavur. As a youngster I was fascinated by the temple arts that were showcased every year at our Thripallavur temple festivals. There would be Ottamthullal, Chakyaar Koothu, Koodiyattam and night long Kathakali shows during festive times. And my favourite was of course the Kathakali which was performed on two nights. I remember going to watch the performance and coming back home at dawn. I had to attend school and later college after the show but that did not dampen my spirits. Looking back I am really amazed at myself – how I enjoyed and sat completely engrossed during those Kathakali performances. I remember seeing Nala Charitham Aatta Katha, Daksha Yagam, Keechaka Vadhom, Panchali Shapadham, Kalyana Sougandhikam, Santhana Gopalam, Bali Vijayam, Poothana Moksham and the rarely performed Manikanda Vijayam on the story of Lord Ayyappa at our temple precincts.

That was how I got introduced to the grace of Kalamandalam Raman Kutty Nair and Kalamandalam Gopi. I was spell bound by Raman Kutty Nair’s brilliant portrayal of Hanuman in the Ramayana stories of Kathakali – the Vella Thadi character and the adorable romantic hero – virtuous hero roles perfected by Kalamandalam Gopi – like the characters of Nala, Arjuna and Karna. It remains clear in my mind even today, decades later, replete with the antics of the monkey (he was playing Hanuman) that made us go in splits. Even more thrilling was when he would walk right into the midst of the audience with a branch of a tree, acting every bit a primate! I never knew the intricacies of the art form but delightfully enjoyed them each time I sat through them.

hanuman 2

Sri Raman Kutty Nair was the doyen of the “Kathi” veshams in Kathakali. All the “Kathi” characters are anti-hero ones like Duryodhana, Keechaka and Ravana. He had also enacted with élan the “Pazhuppu” veshams – the characters of of Parasurama, the Brahmana of Sandhana Gopalam and Kuchela in Kuchela Vritham. Equally memorable was his “Kattaalan” vesham in Nala Charitham second day. Scores of awards and Padma Bhushan later, he occupies the pride of place in the minds of art connoisseurs.

One more maestro departs from the stage of Life. However, though his legacy will live on, there will never be one more of his kind ever! May his soul rest in eternal peace. Kathakali lovers all over the world will bid adieu to this maestro with tears in their eyes.

Source for the picture: http://creative.sulekha.com/splendor-of-the-spectacle_86854_blog

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