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Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair

Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair, the all-time great of Kathakali, a maestro who dominated the Kathakali stage for over seven decades, was a genuine all-rounder who had the caliber to emote any role by adding his own signature flair to it. Noble, wicked and grotesque characters in Kathakali came alive when Krishnan Nair enacted them.

Krishnan Nair's Life was a great epic akin to the Kathakali Art, and has gained laudable admiration for his contributions to the art form. He was born in 1914 at Kunnumbram, Cheruthazham in the Chirakkal Taluk, in Kerala. He was forced to say farewell to the formal education before he completed his primary education.

Krishnan Nair was initiated into Kathakali when he was nine years old under the tutelage of Guru Ambu Panicker and then under Guru Chandu Panikker. His sincere effort and dedication to the art gained special attention and love from his Gurus. His inborn talent and sincerity to the art captured the attention of Poet Vallathol who later decided to enroll Krishnan as a student of Kathakali at Kalamandalam under the famous Guru Pattikkamthoti Ravunni Menon which proved to be a turning point in the history of Kathakali.

Krishnan Nair later received rigorous training under Thakazhi Kunchu Kurupu and Kavalappara Narayanan Nair. He had his higher studies on Rasa-Abhinaya from the Kudiyattam maestro Sri Mani Madhava Chakyar. Endowed with an expressive face, elegant appearance and a romantic-cum-humorous approach to characters Krishnan Nair easily became the luminary in Kathakali. His depiction of the character Poothana gained him the name “Poothana Krishnan” during his initial part of his professional career.

In the mid 1960's, Krishnan Nair dominated the entire space and established his reputation as an unmatched artist, in the field of Kathakali. He became the ambassador of this dance form and propagated this dance form to many parts of the world. Krishnan Nair’s name became synonymous with the dance school Kerala Kalamandalam.

Krishnan Nair presented almost all characters in Kathakali both male and female. His enactment of Poothana, Nala, Bahuka, Chitralekha, Rukmangada, Vridha (Baana yudham), Mannathi, the Brahmins, Raudrabhima, Ravana, Keechaka and Bali was a class apart. He enriched the textual interpretations and improvisations in Kathakali. One of Krishnan Nair’s theatre manuals, “Nalacharitam Aattaprakaram” encapsulated the knowledge of an outstanding actor. One another theatre manual “Attaprakaram for Kottayam Kathakal” is yet to publish. His autobiography “Arangilum Aniyarayilum” is another depiction of his tremendous career. His extensive knowledge of the stage, characters and the methods, through which he lived are valuable gifts for the coming generation artists in the field of dance and acting.

Together with his better half the grand lady of Mohiniyattam, Kalamandalam Kallyanikutty Amma, Sri Krishnan Nair established a dance school, “Kerala Kalalayam”, first at Aluva, Kerala in the year 1952. Together with their moving to Tripunithura they relocated the dance school too to Tripunithura in the year 1959. In the school, they imparted the ‘Gurukula System of Education’ through which numerous talents both in Kathakali and Mohiniyattam were contributed to the dance world. Krishnan Nair’s relocation to Tripunithura paved way for enriching the cultural history of Tripunithura. He became an inevitable personality for Tripunithura; he was in charge of the Kathakali Department of Radha Lakshmi Vilasam School, which later was renamed as the R.L. V College of Fine Arts Academy. The noteworthy contributions he had offered to the academy stays an inevitable part in the progress of the institution..

Krishnan Nair was conferred with innumerable awards and titles. Veera Shrungala by Maharajah of Kochi Pareekshithu Thampuran, Veera Shrungala by Taliparambu Thrichambaram Mahadeva Temple, Keerthi Shandu from Kerala Kalamandalam, The title Mahanadan and Gold Medal from Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, Gold Medal from then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Padmasree award, Central Sangeet Natak Academy Award and Emeritus Fellowship from the Union Ministry of Culture. In the betwixt of eminent artists of Kathakali, Krishnan Nair glitters as a renowned and distinguished artist. His magnificent and realistic performances took Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair unbelievably closer to a myth than any other artiste.

This great legend of Kathakali passed away on August 15th 1990, created an emptiness, which is still left open and probably may open forever. His signature on Kathakali was that deep and undisputed.

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