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Prof. A. Janardhanan 
Compiled by Lalitha Venkat
Photos courtesy: Prof. A. Janardhanan 

April 21, 2015

Aryambath Janardhanan is a well known exponent of Kathakali and Bharatanatyam. Born on April 25, 1942 in Kerala, Prof. A. Janardhanan’s association with Kalakshetra commenced in 1958 and continued for 47 uninterrupted years. He received rigorous training in Kathakali from his father Guru T. K. Chandu Panicker (a student of Icchara Menon in the Kallarikoda tradition of North Kerala) and honed his skills under the renowned Guru Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair with a two year Govt of India scholarship. He received his Post Diploma in Kathakali with distinction in 1966 and continued in Kalakshetra as a teacher of Kathakali and Bharatanatyam.

In the course of his 47 years at Kalakshetra, Janardhanan was a student, a principal dancer in Kalakshetra productions directed by Rukmini Devi, a faculty member, principal of the Rukmini College of Fine Arts (June 2001 - May 2003), retiring as Professor Emeritus when he was 62 years of age. 

“I remember the first lesson I learnt as an artiste. As a teenager during my first appearance on stage, I recollect how I was shocked when my 88 year old father T.K. Chandu Panicker fell at my feet as a part of the act. I experienced an overwhelming sense of shock but with one sharp glance, my father conveyed the message that there is no room for personal relationships when an artiste is in performance. I feel that this is the ultimate lesson - on stage, artistic duty comes before any other personal relationship or commitment,” recalls Janardhanan as an unforgettable moment of realization.

He essayed almost all the major lead roles in the Kalakshetra repertoire including Kathakali performances. Starting with the role of Lakshmana in Sita Swayamvaram, Janardhanan has performed major roles as Rama in Ramayana, Buddha in Buddha Avataram, Bheema in Damayanti Swayamvaram, King Nagaraja and Nanan in Kannappar Kuravanji, Mahabali in Kurma Avataram, Vajrasena and Utiya in Tagore's play Shyama, the Brahmin Ajamila in Ajamilopakhyanam and most of the male roles in Kathakali dramas.

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Janardhanan assisted Rukmini Devi at the International Ballet Competition in Moscow in 1981 where she was a judge. He has given many lec-dems and been invited to be an external examiner in dance by various universities and art centers in India and abroad. He has performed extensively with the Kalakshetra troupe in Australia, China, Europe, Fiji, Malaysia, Nepal, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Srilanka, South Korea and USA.   

Janardhanan is a guru who strives ceaselessly to uphold the high ideals instituted by Rukmini Devi. His natya combines admirable technique with amazing depth of abhinaya marked by subtlety and aesthetics. In 2012, he was invited by his alma mater to help revive some of the dance dramas choreographed by Rukmini Devi of which he had been an integral part. His knowledge of the various aspects of dance dramas is unmatched. He choreographed two dance dramas, Karna Sapatham in Malayalam and Sri Purandara in Kannada for the Kalakshetra repertoire. He choreographed Sri Krishna Jananam for Bharatakalanjali of the Dhananjayans. 

In his felicitation speech on Prof. Janardhanan receiving the Acharya Choodamani from Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, Chennai, in 2013, Guru V.P. Dhananjayan said: “Janardhanan’s illustrious father, Guru Asan Chandu Panickar was known for his extraordinary capacity to teach and train even an average artiste into a master of art. This great guru brought me to Kalakshetra and made me what I am today. The same way, I can justifiably be proud that both Kunhiraman (another great guru from Kalakshetra) and I brought Janardhanan to Kalakshetra in 1958 much against the wishes of his own father who wanted his boy to be a schoolteacher in the village. Janardhanan’s inborn histrionic talent came forth with his entry into the portals of Kalakshetra and he became the most confident and close associate of Rukmini Devi who was the mentor to all of us.

He has the proud privilege of having the longest close association with Rukmini Devi. Hence the institution is now taking advantage of his extraordinary capacity as an Acharya to revive the original compositions of Rukmini Devi’s monumental productions in Kalakshetra.  I compliment Janardhanan for his long association with his alma mater and his continuing to serve the institution with utmost sincerity and total dedication even after his formal retirement from the post of Principal. I take pride in saying that his father Asan Chandu Panickar put him under my care until I left the institution, of course supported by my colleague Balagopal (another great artiste trained by Janardhanan’s father) and before I left Kalakshetra, Janardhanan took over all my main roles in the Kalakshetra productions. He had the great opportunity of specializing in Kathakali mukhabhinaya from none other than the legend Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair, also a senior disciple of Janardhanan’s father, which brought a new dimension to his histrionic ability. Apart from being a superlative performer on stage, handling all sorts of characters with aplomb, Janardhanan has imbibed the choreographic acumen from Rukmini Devi and his own father. This teacher par excellence deserves to be an Acharya Choodamani.”

Some of Janardhanan’s other awards and honors include: title of Pravasi Kalasree conferred by Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy (2013), Narada Gana Sabha’s Natyarangam Award (2012), Kala Pratibha Puraskar from Kerala Sangeeta Nataka Academy (2006), title of Natana Bhaskara from Dhananjayans’ Bhaskara (2003), Bharatha Kala Sagara award from Sudharani Raghupathy’s Shree Bharathalaya (2002), Gold medal from Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti for his service in the field of arts. 

More on Prof. Janardhanan
Interview of Prof. Janardhanan by Lalitha Venkat:

Seminar on Patrapravesam from Rukmini Devi's dance dramas by Prof. Janardhanan:

Guru's gift by Anjana Rajan



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