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Guru Kunju Kurup (1881-1970) was one of the most famous Kathakali artistes to have born and celebrated in south Kerala, and gained popularity in central and north Kerala as well.
Born in Poypallilkulam family of Thakazhi village of Kuttanad in present-day Alappuzha district, Kurup was initiated into Kathakali at the age of 13 by his own uncles Kochappi Panikker and Rama Panikker. He later joined the famous Kaliyogam (repertory) of the renowned Mathur Kunhu Pillai Panikker, and subsequently had tutelage under gurus Champakulam Sankara Pillai and Thottam Sankaran Namboodiri. His grooming later under Vechur Ayyappa Kurup paved the way for his entry into the Kochi and Malabar belts.
Kunju Kurup's marriage with a relative of Palayil Karunakara Menon, a Kathakali exponent living near Palakkad in 1910, cemented his ties with central Kerala. Soon, he was made a tutor at the famous Kerala Kalamandalam following an invitation from its co-founder, poet Vallathol Narayana Menon. He later had brief stints as a Kathakali guru in Bangalore (1943) and Madras (or Chennai, in 1914, during which Mrinalini Sarabhai was his student), and later (1948–52) at Chembakassery Natana Kalamandalam in Ambalappuzha, his home territory.
Kunju Kurup, a Padma Bhushan awardee of 1971,wasn't exactly an exemplary tutor, but he had lot of fans as a performer. And they included the great Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair as well. He succeeded in creating fresh aesthetics of Kathakali acting-dancing through sublime presentation of rasa and bhava abhinaya. Kurup was renowned for his varied roles like Nala, Hamsam (swan), Rugmangada, Arjuna and Krishna besides minukku veshams such as Kuchelan, Brahmanan and Sundara Brahmanan. He also excelled in anti-hero roles like Ravana and Keechaka, besides the black-bearded Kaatalan.
Kurup was honoured with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for Kathakali in 1956 for his unique contributions to the four-century old classical dance-drama from the southern Indian state.He also won the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi fellowship in 1969.
He was a paternal uncle of the Malayalam writer and Jnanpith winner Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai.
Perumanoor Gopinathan Pillai, more popularly known as Guru Gopinath was a well known actor-cum-dancer. He is well regarded as the greatest preserver of the dance tradition. He is a recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.
Guru Chenganoor Raman Pillai, also spelt Chengannur Raman Pillai (1886–1980), was a celebrated Kathakali artist from Kerala in south India. He was known for his brilliant portrayal of the anti-heroic Kathi roles on stage, and was the head of palace kathakali yogam to the Travancore Maharaja in a career spanning almost 65 years.
Guru Mani Madhava Chakyar (15 February 1899 – 14 January 1990) was a celebrated master performance artist and Sanskrit scholar from Kerala, India, considered to be the greatest Chakyar Koothu and Koodiyattam artist and authority of modern times. He was considered as the authority of Abhinaya and Nātyaśāstra.
Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair was one of the most renowned Kathakali artists of any time, and arguably the greatest in the history of the four-century-old classical dance-drama from Kerala in southern India. He had fleshy, flexible and clean-cut facial features that were powerful to launch any emotion with amazing power and ease, and was intelligent enough to acquire and exhibit varied styles of Kathakali that were in vogue across Kerala during his lifetime.
Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair was a performer of Kathakali, who practiced the Kerala art form for more than seven decades.
Guru Kelu Nair was a renowned Kathakali dance artist and teacher.
Gandhi Seva Sadan is a Kathakali institution located in Perur village, some 12 kilometres east of Ottapalam in Palakkad district of north-central Kerala in southern India. It was founded in 1953 by the (late) Gandhian and freedom fighter K. Kumaran, equally known for his unflagging devotion to the promotion of the arts.
Keezhpadam Kumaran Nair (1916–2007) was a Kathakali artists from Kerala, India. Endowed with a life profile that also exposed him to several traditional Indian performing arts other than Kathakali, his stage presentation infused a fresh breath into the four-century-old art form, thanks also to his broad and deep view about the Puranas that spurred from a constant pursuit of knowledge through reading books and engaging in talks in scholars.
Kalamandalam Padmanabhan Nair (1928–2007) was an eminent Kathakali exponent, equally known for his capacities as a tutor, theoretician and author of a few authentic texts on the classical dance-drama from Kerala in south India. A son of the Kathakali guru Pattikkamthodi Ravunni Menon, Padmanabhan Nair was one of the early-batch students in Kerala Kalamandalam, where he subsequently joined as a teacher and retired as its principal in 1990. He died on 3 April 2007, at his home in Shoranur, near his alma mater, where he led his post-professorial life with wife and Mohiniyattam exponent and guru, Kalamandalam Satyabhama.
Pattikkamthodi Ravunni Menon (1880-1948) was a pivotal figure in the history of Kathakali, having played a crucial role in remoulding and refining its grammar in the famed Kalluvazhi tradition of the classical dance-drama from Kerala in south India. He was trained in the art form at a culture-patronising Namboodiri mansion in Vellinezhi near his home, even as his genius ensured that Menon later redrew the aesthetics of Kathakali and its future profile altogether.
Vazhenkada Kunchu Nair, also spelt Kunju Nair, (1909-1981) was an outstanding Kathakali mastero of the 20th century. He was a unique legendary personality who was a brilliant performer, an excellent guru (teacher) and a scholar in Sanskrit that nobody could match in the world of Kathakali. He mainly served in two of the great institutions of Kathakali in Kerala as their Guru, first in PSV Natya Sangham, Kottakkal Since 1946 and from 1960 to 1972 at Kerala Kalamandalam. He was the first principal of Kerala Kalamandalam, the premier performing arts institute of Kerala in south India. A Padma Shri and Sangeet Natak Akademi Awardee, Kunchu Nair was a frontline disciple of the legendary Pattikkamthodi Ramunni Menon, and was noted for his subdued portrayal of lead Kathakali roles like Nalan, Rukmangadan, Dharmaputrar, Bhiman, Arjunan, Brahmanan and Parasuraman (Sitaswayamvaram) besides in anti-hero slots like Ravanan and Duryodhanan.
Kalamandalam Vasu Pisharody is a leading Kathakali artiste known for his restrained portrayal of character roles in the classical dance-drama of Kerala in south India. A frontline disciple of Padma Shri Vazhenkada Kunchu Nair, he excels in virtuous pachcha, anti-hero Kathi and the semi-realistic minukku roles alike. Nalan, Bahukan, Arjunan, Bhiman, Dharmaputrar, Rugmangadan, Narakaasuran, Ravanan, Parashuraman and Brahmanan are his masterpieces.
Sadanam Krishnankutty is a cultural artist and a popular performer of Kathakali, a unique classical dance-drama form of Kerala, South India. A recipient of Kerala State Kathakali award and Kalamandalam fellowship, he is reputed for his skill in donning a wide range of characters in his acts. He received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2007.
Mankompu Sivasankara Pillai, of Kerala in south India, was a reputed Kathakali artiste of the classical dance-drama's southern style. Noted for his consummate depiction of pachcha, kathi and minukku roles, he is a disciple of late maestro Chenganoor Raman Pillai.
Kalamandalam Krishnankutty Poduval (1924-1992) was a self-taught maestro of Kathakali percussion who excelled in the art of chenda playing by redefining its aesthetics as an audio accompaniment for the classical dance-drama from Kerala in south India.
Kalamandalam Appukutty Poduval (1924–2008) was a maddalam maestro who rose to prominence by his aesthetically pleasing taps on the instrument—a vital percussion accompaniment for Kathakali, the classical dance-drama from Kerala in south India. A disciple of the legendary Venkichan Swami, he, along with chenda exponent, Kalamandalam Krishnankutty Poduval, ushered in a new spring in the acoustics of their performing art.
Guru Mampuzha Madhava Panicker (1900–1973) was a traditional Kathakali dancer and instructor. He was the former principal of the Kerala Kalamandalam University of Art and Culture in Cheruthuruthi in Kerala State in India. Panicker was of the Kalluvazhi (midland) school of Kathakali. He received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1972.
Kavungal Chathunni Panicker was an Indian classical dancer, known for his proficiency in Kathakali, the traditional dance form of Kerala. He was an exponent of the Kavungal School of Kathakali, noted for its rigorous training methods and overt physical interpretation of abhinaya. He is known to have brought innovations to the dance form, especially in the decorative movements (kalasam) and his contributions are reported in the development of grammar and costumes for the Kavungal School. A recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1973, Panicker was honored again by the Government of India, in 2006, with the fourth highest Indian civilian award of Padma Shri.
Kalamandalam Gangadhran was a prominent Kathakali musician from Kerala. His unique tenor and accent has earned him a large audience both within and outside Kerala. He was the most prominent disciple of Kalamandalam Neelakandan Nambeesan, and the Master of the many later generations of Kathakali Musicians. He was a visiting professor at Margi, an organization dedicated to the revival of Kathakali and Kutiyattom, two classical art forms of Kerala. In 2006, he was honoured by the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.
Chemancheri Kunhiraman Nair, also known as Guru Chemancheri Kunhiraman Nair is an Indian Kathakali actor. He has spent over eighty years learning and teaching and performing Kathakali, a major form of classical Indian dance The Government of India awarded him the fourth highest civilian honor, Padma Shri in 2017.
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