Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair

Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair
Born (1914-03-11)11 March 1914
Cheruthazham, Kannur, British India (present-day Kerala, India)
Died (1990-08-15)15 August 1990
Tripunithura, Kerala, India
Spouse(s) Kalyanikuttyamma
Awards 1967: Sangeet Natak Akademi Award
1970: Padma Shri

Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair (11 March 1914 – 15 August 1990) 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.[1]

A Padma Shri and Sangeet Natak Akademi Awardee, [2] Krishnan Nair was a genuine all-rounder who had the caliber to emote any role in Kathakali and, what's more, add his signature flair to it. Even so, he was most widely celebrated for his playing of the virtuous and romantic pachcha (green-hued) roles like Nalan, Bhiman, Arjunan, Rukmangadan and Karnan.

A native of Cheruthazham in Kannur taluk of Kannur district in North Malabar, Kerala, he was initiated into Kathakali in his early teenages under the tutelage of Guru Chandu Panikker. By 19, he got noticed by Kerala Kalamandalam co-founder, poet Vallathol Narayana Menon, and inducted Krishnan Nair into his institute, then near Mulankunnathukavu, north of Thrissur in central Kerala. It was there that Krishnan Nair was trained under gurus of varied style—like Pattikkamthodi Ravunni Menon, Thakazhi Kunchu Kurup, Kavalappara Narayanan Nair and Mani Madhava Chakyar.

Krishnan Nair had his higher studies on Rasa-abhinaya (facial emotions which stressed on eye exercises) from the celebrated Kudiyattam maestro Natyacharya Māni Mādhava Chākyār, who too won the Padma Shri.[3] Krishnan Nair was deeply influenced by Shri. Chakyar.[4]

With his calibre to perform any challenging role and a flexible mindset that prompted him to occasionally do minor roles (with some new elements), Krishnan Nair was probably the pioneering Kathakali artiste who was a hardcore professional—in the sense that he was the arguably the first to dictate the rate for each of his performances. It was a watershed move in an art form that had huge feudal hangovers and its entailing element of servility that patrons expected from the artistes.

Krishnan Nair had a penchant for realistic portrayal of characters and situations that made him more popular in the Travancore belt of south Kerala. In fact, his outlandish style had made him a less acknowledged master in central and north Kerala—the very places that groomed his art in his early days.

Krishnan Nair's powerful style won him admirers.

Krishnan Nair, towards the second half of his life, had made Tripunithura near Kochi his home. He had also served as the Kathakali Vesham faculty at the RLV College of Music and Fine Arts, Tripunithura. The late doyenne and the one who is considered the mother of Mohiniyattam, another Kerala classical dance form, Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma was his wife. Their daughters, Sreedevi Rajan and Kala Vijayan, are experts in the field of Mohiniyattam and one of their sons, Kalasala Babu, was a well-known actor in the Malayalam drama and movie world. Krishnan Nair's granddaughter Smitha Rajan is a noted Mohiniyattam danseuse.[5]

Krishnan Nair died on Indian Independence Day, 15 August 1990, aged 76.

See also


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