Thiruvananthapuram | Theatre doyen Kavalam Narayana Panicker, who successfully blended the classical tradition and folk elements in the format of contemporary theatre, passed away at his home here Sunday. He was 88. He is survived by his wife Saradamani and singer-son Kavalam Sreekumar. He had been unwell for some time due to age related ailments, family sources said. A multi-faceted personality who carved his niche in divergent fields, Panicker, popularly known as Kavalam, was a well-established poet, lyricist and theatre director.
Untouched by the western influence in dramas, Kavalam had evolved a unique theatre training system with Indian perspective. His plays were known for its Indian narrative mode, usage of ethnic languages and rural flavour. Famous for his own dramas like ‘Avanavan Kadamba’, ‘Daivathar’ and ‘Sakshi’, which are considered milestones in the history of contemporary Malayalam theatre, he also translated Sanskrit plays of classical masters like Kalidasa and Bhasa and brought them into the stage. ‘Shakunthalalam’, ‘Karnabharam’ and ‘Vikramorvasheeyam’ were among Sanskrit dramas which he adapted and gave life on the stage. Hailing from scenic Kavalam in Alappuzha district, the veteran was the founder director of ‘Sopanam’, a theatre group.
Kavalam, who served as secretary of the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy in the 1960s, was accorded with Padma Bhushan in the year 2007. He also won a number of honours, including Sangeeth Natak Akademy award, Sangeeth Natak Fellowship and Kerala State Film Award for the best lyricist. Expressing grief over his unexpected demise, state Cultural Affairs Minister A K Balan said his contributions to the contemporary theatre was unique. The date and time of cremation is yet to be finalized, the family added.