Kalamandalam Krishnankutty Poduval
Photos courtesy: Kalasagar

August 10, 2009

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.
Poduval, who was born in the village of Vellinezhi in Palakkad district, was groomed in chenda playing by legendary Moothamana Kesavan Namboodiri and Pattikkamthodi Ravunni Menon. He had earlier received basic training in chenda under Chamrankulangara Appu Marar. He has been credited with lending audio support on the chenda to emotional scenes on the Kathakali stage. His art, in tandem with the late maddalam maestro Kalamandalam Appukutty Poduval, won wide appreciation from audiences. Together, they used to prop up the performance of the renowned master, Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair.

He re-interpreted the role of chenda in Kathakali. Poduval traced on chenda, even the subtle emotions of characters, provided musical sentiments to romantic scenes and prompted the actors to do their best on stage. His holistic understanding of Kathakali helped him integrate music to every visual note. This was a matchless achievement. He has scripted and directed many Kathakali plays, Bhishmaprathignya, Amba, King Lear, Snapakacharitham, Ashtapadiyattom, etc., to name a few. He left behind a treasure trove of knowledge on Kerala's performing arts in general and Kathakali in particular both at the theoretical and practical levels.
Krishnankutty Poduval, a mercurial genius and a winner of the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi award, groomed several disciples at Kerala Kalamandalam from where he retired as professor in the late 1980s. They include Kalamandalam Kesavan, Kesava Poduval, Unnikrishnan, Balaraman, Kuroor Cheriya Vasudevan Namboothiry, Raman Namboodiri, Rajan, Vijayakrishnan (his son), Radhakrishnan and Krishnadas.

In May 2008, his alma mater brought out a book 'Melapperukkam' carrying the complete written works of Kalamandalam Krishnankutty Poduval. Two of Poduval's sons are artistes in the field of Kathakali. Kalamandalam Mohanakrishnan is a musician, while Kalamandalam Vijayakrishnan is a chenda player.

Founded by Krishnankutty Poduval, Kalasagar continues to promote and propagate his ideals and extend scientific training and performing traditional art forms, participating in various cultural festivals across Kerala and India as well as overseas. The team of well known gurus, talented / established and well trained artists, perform traditional art forms such as Kathakali, Mohiniattam, Bharatanatyam, Ottenthullal, Chakyar Koothu, Panchavadyam, Thayambaka, Keli, Chenda Melam (instrumental plays) and also present lecture-cum-demonstrations.
Kalasagar celebrates its anniversary every year on 28th May, which is also the birthday of its illustrious founder, titled as ORU PIRANALINTE ORMAKKU (Remembrance of a birthday). During the anniversary celebrations in May 2009, an award in Poduval's memory, titled as BAHUMUKHA PRATIBHA (multi-faceted talent) has been announced, to honour a Kathakali artiste, who exhibits proficiency in all aspects of his art, including acting, playing musical instruments, music scores and literacy contributions (saahityam). The award will include a citation plus a cash prize. The institution also has plans to recognize and honour artistes in the field of Ottenthullal, Chakyar Koothu, Thayambaka, Panchavadyam, Bharatanatyam and Mohiniattam and make future anniversary celebrations as an Award Night. The awardees will be selected through polls. Art lovers can send in their nominations for the award to kalasaagar@gmail.com