Friday, 28 August 2020

Profile - Guru Gopinath and Kerala Natanam - G. Venu

Guru Gopinath and his wife Thankamani are dazzling artistes who shone upon the 20th century history of Kathakali, Mohiniyattam and Contemporary Dance. I had joined as a student under Guru Gopinath after he opened Viswa Kala Kendra at Vattiyoorkavu in Thiruvananthapuram in 1963. At that time he was the most well known dancer of Kerala. The newspapers and other journals of the day gave a lot of coverage to his performances both in India and abroad. I had become an ardent devotee of Guru Gopinath after seeing the photographs of his Navarasa-s that was published in a magazine. The expressions that unfolded upon his perfect dancer's face always held a unique charisma and radiance.

Born into the rich heritage of Kathakali in Kuttanad, a treasure house of performing art forms in southern Kerala, Gopinathan had received training in Kathakali under stalwarts like Chambakulam Paramu Pillai, Mathoor Kunjupillai Paniker, Guru Kunchu Kurup and Chengannur Raman Pillai for seven or eight years before joining Kerala Kalamandalam. He belonged to the first batch of students at Kalamandalam which was opened by the great poet Vallathol Narayana Menon in 1930. His class mates included Krishnan Nair (later, Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair), Sivaraman (Ananda Sivaram), Madhavan (Kalamandalam Madhavan) and Kelu Nair. Great artistes like Guru Kunchu Kurup, Pattikkamthodi Ravunni Menon and Vellinezhi Nanu Nair were among the teachers at Kalamandalam then. Gopinathan, however, joined the American dancer Ragini Devi to form a new dance troupe, with the permission of Vallathol. Ragini Devi had visited Kalamandalam at that time. It later proved to be a great turning point in the history of Kerala's dance forms.

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