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At 80, Kathakali doyen Kalamandalam Gopi wishes to perform more

Monday, Jun 5, 2017,18:13 IST By anju A A A

Thiruvananthapuram | Whether it is virtuous roles or villainous characters, this doyen of Kathakali has been portraying them with impeccable perfection for the last seven decades.

Octogenarian Kathakali maestro Kalamandalam Gopi, who is still busy performing the classical dance drama in the state and abroad, says he wants to enact more variety of characters.

It is not the nature of the roles but the satisfaction and happiness of the audience that matters to him the most, the Padmashree awardee said.

Art buffs in Thrissur, the cultural capital of Kerala, have been celebrating his 80th birthday with much fanfare, by showcasing Kathakali and other cultural programmes for four days since June 2.

A host of dignitaries from various walks of life including popular actor Mohanlal, a known Kathakali buff and an ardent fan of Gopi, took part in various sessions of the event, titled “Haritham”.

Gopiyasan, as he is popularly known, said it is not him but the centuries-old dance drama of the state that is being honoured through the celebrations.

“I am speechless seeing this love and affection of art buffs. I am more happy that all these four days, people have got an opportunity to enjoy Kathakali at its best day and night,” he told PTI.

The artist also said the birthday celebration had virtually turned out to be an awareness drive about the dance drama and expressed confidence that its future is safe in the hands of the art-loving young generation.

The real success of an artist lies in making a layman who has no idea about the technicalities of the art form, enjoy it, he said.
    
“A dedicated and hard-working generation is being shaped up and they can successfully connect this art form with commoners,” he said.

Born on May 21, 1937 at Kothachira in Palakkad district, Gopi started off his Kathakali training at Kerala Kalamandalam, a centre for learning Indian performing arts located in Cheruthuruthi.

He got a chance to be groomed under a number of iconic masters including Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair, Kalamandalam Padmanabhan Nair and Keezhpadam Kumaran Nair.

A Padmashree awardee and recipient of the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi award, Gopiyasan is most known for enacting romantic and dramatic roles like that of Nalan, the mythical warrior king in the Mahabharatha.

Art buffs hail him as the master of ‘pacha’, the virtuous roles of Kathakali. He has equally excelled in ‘kathi’, villainous characters and other genres.

“I used to do pacha characters…but it is not that rare to perform characters of other genres. I undergo some sort of mental conflict when
I suddenly switch over to an entirely different character like kathi, thadi, minukku and so on,” he said. 

“But I ignore the uneasiness seeing the happiness of the audience,” he said.

Gopiyasan also acted in a couple of Malayalam films like the Mohanlal-starrer ‘Vanaprastham’, directed by Shaji N Karun. Eminent filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan made a documentary on him, titled Kalamandalam Gopi.

A committee, chaired by state agriculture minister V S Sunil Kumar, organised the four-day-long birthday celebration programme, which was marked by huge participation of art buffs.