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Age cannot wither this maestro

A highly cultivated audience at Killikurussimangalam in Palakkad district sat in reverential awe as P.K.G. Nambiar, maestro, presented Koothu on the eve of his 80th birthday recently.

The presentation was so vibrant and artistically perfect that he defied his age. It was full dedication and assiduous practice that made him a renowned Koothu and Padakam artiste.

Son of Mani Madhava Chakkiyar, doyen of ‘rasabhinaya,' he got his early tutoring from his illustrious father. His first performance was on ‘mizhavu' at the age of 11; turning 14, he staged his first Koodiyattom performance, the venue being the Avittathoor temple. Then on, it was a continuous saga of performances of Koothu, Koodiyattom and Padakam in hundreds of venues all over the country.

Though these art forms are typically suited to a Kerala audience, the craft of Nambiar and his fine artistry convey the theme and ‘rasa' to those elsewhere. As Kathakali, which is now well received even abroad, Koothu, Koodiyattom and Padakam have artistic possibilities to reach out to audiences from various cultures and languages. Nambiar is one who explored these possibilities to the maximum.

When he took Koodiyattom to a public venue, the conservative segment of the artistes raised a huge protest. Koodiyattom was staged in Thirunakkara Maidan in Kottayam as part of the 27th anniversary celebrations of the Samastha Kerala Sahithya Parishad.

Out of the confines

Koothu, Koodiyattom and Padakam, which were confined to temples and to a limited audience, were performed outside temples for the benefit of the art lovers of various communities and religions. In 1963, Koodiyattam was performed in Chennai. In north Indian venues, Nambiar presented Koothu in Hindi. His presentation of Koothu, Koodiyattom and Padakam in Hindi received wide acclaim in various parts of India. He had translated Nitya Kalpadrumam, the masterpiece of his father, into Hindi.

He has not been a conservative performer of these ritualistic art forms, presenting Koothu and Padakam on various social themes, such as untouchability, prohibition and literacy, on a large number of stages. Art for a social mission is his message. So, he had to withstand the anger and resistance of conservative segments of people.

But he continued his mission and even at this age, Nambiar is a vibrant man. He has to his credit a host of awards, including those of the Kerala and Kendra Sangeetha Nataka Akademies, and the Khadi-Hindi Pracharak award and UNESCO award.

He was for a long time Hindi teacher at the NSS KPT High School, Ottappalam.

G. PRABHAKARAN

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