Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair, the living legend of Kathakali,is one of the most illustrious sons Kerala has produced. This most willing instrument of Daksha,the god of arts,led a life of unswerving devotion to the most famous classical performing art of Kerala. Through a lifetime of intellectual and physical hard work and through relentless practice,he tuned himself to a near perfect artiste who inspired and entertained hundreds of Kathakali fans.
Ramankutty Nair is extolled for his fidelity to the Kalluvazhi tradition perfected by his mentor Pattickamthodi Ramunni Menon and for his effortless interpretation of plays characterized by rigid grammar and choreography.
Ramankutty Nair has mostly been associated with characters representing rajo guna with kathi make-up - evil yet valorous characters like Ravana,Duryodhana,Keechaka and Narakasura. His representations of such characters have become the yardstick for many connoisseurs.
The character of the Monkey-God Hanuman was also one which he excelled in performing. His Hanuman in Kalyanasougandhigam,Thoranayudham and Lavanasuravadham are among his best characterizations.
All his celebrated roles are notable for the harmonious interaction with the percussion instruments,especially the chenda. His long-term association with chenda maestro Kalamandalam Krishnankutty Poduval helped greatly in this regard. Poduval,a genius himself,provided inspired accompaniment to enhance Ramankutty Nair's characters.
He was unrivalled in Cholliyattom,acting of librettos to set choreography,as opposed to Ilakiyattom (which follows the Cholliyattom) where the actor is allowed to improvise. Mastery in Cholliyattom requires mastery of the complete vocabulary of the classical art form.
The trio of Ramankutty Nair,chenda maestro Krishnankutty Poduval and maddalam maestro Appukkutty Poduaval,known as the Kutty Trio,gave many an unforgettable performance.
It was Ramankutty Nair who introduced the Ashtakalasam,the dance of bliss of Balabhadra and Krishna in the play Subhadraharanam. Ashtakalasam is a series of eight dance compositions in the Champa tala,corresponding to the Khanda jati Jhampa tala of Carnatic music.
The aaharya aspect of abhinaya consists of the costumes,make-up and all utensils needed for the performance. Ramankutty made changes to the aaharya,based on the Ravi Varma paintings. This was not well-received initially but Vallathol endorsed it after consultations with scholars like Parikshit Thampuran of Kochi.
Vallathol,whom he says was his third guru after his Amma (mother) and Asan (teacher) spent much time explaining to him the meanings of librettos and their sub-texts in the epics and other literature. This helped him considerably in interpreting and enacting the Kathakali stories with the most accurate mudras (hand gestures). Though,Vallathol made him a member of the training faculty of Kalamandalam in 1948,he continued to train under Pattickamthodi for another year. Such was his dedication to the art form and his desire for perfecting it.
From 1948 to 1985,almost every Kathakali student at Kalamandalam trained under Ramankutty Nair. These include future luminaries like Kalamandalam Vaikom Karunakaran,his first disciple and Kalamandalam Gopi. Others who trained under him include Kalamandalam Kuttan,Rajan,M. P. S Namboodiri,Gopalakrishnan and Ramdas.
As a teacher,he was a perfectionist and a tough taskmaster,like his own teacher whom he revered. His very presence could evoke discipline in his students and panic in his accompanists!
To close associates,Ramankutty Nair is witty and yet,inherently sober,probably owing to the hardships of his childhood.
He has been honoured with numerous awards and prestigious titles like the Central Sangeet Natak Academy Award,first State Kathakali Award and Kalidas Samman of the Government of Madhya Pradesh. He has also represented India in almost all the leading theatres of the world.
In 1995,he published his autobiography,'Thiranottam'.
Ramankutty Nair retired as principal of the Kerala Kalamandalam,the premier academy for Keralan performing arts,after 34 years of service.
Keralites have proved their deligence and extra ordinary brillience through out the world. Keralites are well known for their honesty and efficiency in all fields. In the list of Prominent Personalities we have tried to include all famous personalities from Kerala. We are trying to collect the details of the rest. If you have the details of any such personalities, please send to us.