Kalamandalam Padmanabhan Nair
- C Ambujakshan Nair
April 7, 2007
Kathakali guru Kalamandalam Padmanabhan Nair passed away on April 3, 2007 at his residence in Shornur, Kerala. He was 79. I came to know the sad news after attending a Kathakali program at Anupuram Ayyappan temple near my residence in the company of other Kathakali artists Margi Vijayakumar, Kalamandalam Vinod, Rajeevan Nambuthiri, Margi Ratnakaran, Thampi and Margi Raveendran Pillai.
I think it was in 1979 he came to Mavelikara for attending a Kathakali program in Sreekrishnaswamy temple. The story was Bhattarakavijayam written by former Education Minister of Kerala, R Ramachandran Nair (Thulaseevanam). He did the role of Bhattarakamuni. The other participants were Pallippuram Gopalan Nair, Oyoor Kochu Govinda Pillai, Chennithala Chellappan Pillai and Chavara Parukutty. Padmanabhan Nair came to Mavelikara well in advance and I was delegated for giving company to him at that time.
Then I met him at South Indian Welfare School, Wadala, Bombay when he came to participate in a Kathakali program by Kalamandalam troupe. His role was Mathali in Kalakeyavadham and Valalan in Keechakavadham.
Guru Padmanabhan Nair was born in Kuruvattur in Palakkad on October 7, 1928. His father was Guru Pattikkanthodi Ravunni menon and mother Ammukutty Amma. He started his Kathakali education under his father in Kalamandalam when he was 10. His initial stage performance was as Krishnan in Subhadraharanam. He joined in PSV Natya Sangham and continued his Kathakali training for 2 years.
In 1951, Mahakavi Vallathol appointed him as a Kathakali tutor in Kalamandalam and in 1985 he became the Principal of Kalamandalam. When Kalamandalam introduced awards for artists, Padmanabhan Nair received the first award. He is famous for his role as Brahmin in Santhanagopalam and Rukminiswayamvaram, Sudevan in Nalacharitham. His Azhakiya Ravanan in Thoranayudham is one of the famous Kathi roles in Kathakali. He was the master in Hamsam in Kalluvazhi style. He has written a book titled ‘Kathakali Vesham’ published by Kerala Bhasha Institute which includes all the details of Kathakali training in Kalamandalam. He visited almost all countries along with the Kalamandalam Kathakali troupe.
He won the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi Award in 1993, Kendra Sangeetha Nataka Akademi Award in 1994 and the state Kathakali Award in 2006. His demise is a big loss to Kathakali.