Eminent personalities acing the stage with Kathakali

Beyond the elaborate costumes and colourful masks are beautiful stories

One among the eight major Indian classical dance forms, Kathakali is an elaborately colourful heavy costume and dancers in face masks performing the ‘story play’ genre of art. Originated around the 17th century, the roots of this dance form can be found in the temple and folk arts traceable to at least the 1st millennium CE. Traditionally performed by all-male actor-dancers wearing colourful face masks and heavy dresses acting both male and female, Kathakali is a Hindu performance art dominant in Kerala.

Amid the heavy costume and face masks, it is the facial expressions, hand gestures, and movements that enable in telling the story. Traditionally the themes of Kathakali are folk mythologies, religious legends, and spiritual ideas from the Hindu epics and the Puranas, while the vocal is performed in Sanskritised Malayalam. Now in modern compositions, women artists are included and Western stories and plays are adapted. So here is a list of a few well-known Kathakali dancers that are preserving this art.

KalamandalamGopi
He is one of the most respected Kathakali dancers in India and is a student of gurus like Padmanabhan Nair, Ramankutty Nair, and Kumaran Nair. One of the eminent representatives of the Kalluvazhi School of Kerala, in a career spanning over three decades he has preserved and promoted the art Northern Kathakali style. Gopi is known for the romantic and dramatic portrayal of the virtuous pachcha roles in Kathakali. He is also highly regarded for his portrayal of yellow-faced pazhuppu and various other styles.

KottakkalSivaraman
KottakkalSivaraman was a performing artist known to have revolutionized the portrayal of female roles in Kathakali. Sivaraman with ease captured the different emotions of Pingala as he transits from the depths of distresses to reaching the heights of happiness. He is said to have the ability to display a combination of emotions.

KalamandalamKesavanNamboodiri
He is a kathakali percussionist, playwright, and actor. Namboodiri has presented Kathakali dance on stages not only in India but overseas as well. His expertise lies in the Minukku characters, but further in life he also performed Pacha, Kathi, Thadi characters.

Kalamandalam Krishna Prasad
Prasad is known for his excellence in depicting both, male as well as female characters with finesse. He started learning Kathakali from the age of 12 under Evoor Krishnan Nair and his first performance was as Srikrishnan at the age of 14. Prasad as a trained Kathakali dancer holds expertise in Pacha, Kathi, Kari, and Minukku characters.

Kathakali was developed in the courts of Hindu principalities and also incorporates movements from ancient Indian martial arts.

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