Mohiniattam guru Nirmala Paniker turns 60

June 10, 2010

Eminent research scholar, exponent and Guru of Mohinattam, Nirmala Paniker's 60th birthday was celebrated by her students, colleagues and friends on 16th May 2010 at Natanakairali Research and Performing Centre for traditional Arts, Irinjalakuda.

In the morning, the celebrations started with Ganapathi homam. Different cultural organizations of Irinjalakuda felicitated the artiste. Several performances took place from 10am to 10pm.

The function was inaugurated by Dr. KG Paulose, Vice Chancellor, Kerala Kalamandalam Deemed University. This was followed by a lec-dem about the contributions of Nirmala Paniker and Natanakaisiki towards Mohiniattam by Meenakshi Menon and students of Natanakaisiki Mohiniyatta Gurukulam.

Natanakaisiki was founded in 1979 at Irinjalakuda. Nirmala Paniker has played an important role in the enrichment of Mohiniattam by adding the rich Netrabhinaya and Hastabhinaya traditions of Kerala which were earlier part of Mohiniattam. The tradition had been lost due to the deterioration of this art form. She had special training in hand gestures and abhinaya techniques of this art form under Guru Ammannur asan. With this, she has developed a systematic methodology for the teaching of Mohiniattam. She has played a key role in the revival of Nangiar Koothu at Irinjalakuda.

Nirmala Paniker has done research on the Hastalakshana Deepika and by 1985, introduced a methodology for learning all the hand gestures in Mohiniattam using the Sanskrit slokas for the first time in the history of Mohiniattam. Now it is in the training program in most of the schools. The students showed the usages of a few mudras with the chanting of the Sanskrit slokas.

Nirmala Paniker also rejuvenated the desi aspects of Mohiniattam called Poli, Easal, Kurathy and Chandanam. She has choreographed 'Leela' (based on the great poet Kumaranasan's poem Leela) in the form of Mohiniattam Saptam). Her contributions include many songs written by her (Varnams, Keerthanams etc) for Mohiniattam, choreographed and taught to the new generation.

Prof. George S Paul, Shyamala Surendran, Renu Ramanath, Neena Prasad, Indu G and Methil Devika participated in a discussion. GS Paul said, "Whenever I come to Natanakairali, I see Nirmala Paniker either with her students or with her research work. This dedication towards her art form is her success." Mohiniattam dancer Dr. Neena Prasad expressed her appreciation of how attending a lec-dem by Nirmala Paniker gave her a clear idea on how to go forward with her studies. Mohiniattam dancer Methil Devika was happy to be present "because I have seen many choreographies of Nirmala teacher. The specialty of her choreography is that she selects the song very carefully where she can bring many images through a lot of emotions and expressions. Each word is explained with its direct meaning and its inner meaning. This is evident in the Mookoothy Nritham which she choreographed recently."

Post lunch featured Kathakali Sangeetham by Kalamandalam Narayanan Embranthiri, Kalanilayam Rajeev, Sushri Kapila and Sudharma Narayanan. This was followed by a saxophone concert by Takashi Saito (Japan). After felicitations by various individuals and organizations, students of Natanakaisiki Mohiniyatta Gurukulam presented a Mohiniattam recital, and Thiruvathirakali was performed by students and parents.