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Guru deserves Padmashree; Why doesn’t gov. bother?

Why didn’t the government confer Padmashree honor to Kathakali maestro and centenarian guru Chemancheri Kunhiraman Nair?. It is an injustice to this centenarian Kathakali genius,according to his admirers and art lovers.

Guru Chemancheri Kunhiraman Nair is very young at Kathakali even at his age of 100.

Kerala’s Kathakali maestro, Guru’s recent Kathakali show was something distinctive with its significance with time and age. He performed his role as Krishna at the age of 100 at Kuniyil Paradevatha temple, Kizhpayur, recently. The venue was more special to him because he stepped into Kathakali 87 years back at this same temple.

He acted the role of Lord Krishna in Duryodanavadham.

He forgets his age and related tiredness while dressing for the historical show. He has trained as many as students into this art form by establishing his own Kathakali Vidyalayam at Cheliya in Koyilandi.His immense contribution to this traditional art is well-known among the Keralites and the art lovers all over the world. However; he has not been considered with prestigious civilian awards like Padmashree.His name didn’t find place in recent nominations, too even if his contributions are more precious than any awards. The state governments, cultural department, top politicians in Kozhikode and opinion leaders are responsible to raise this issue, because guru deserves more than that.

Cheliya Kathakali Viodyalayam,Cheliya,Koyilandi.

Cheliya Kathakali Viodyalayam,Cheliya,Koyilandi.

When you ask about Kathakali, guru has many things to share with the same enthusiasm as of a fresher in this field.

Kathakali is a devotion to him, more than just an art form. He dedicated his life to this classic art form since the age of fourteen. He is a living legend in the traditional art form of Kerala. He received many awards throughout his life.

All these awards were searching for him. He never longed for any single one because to him Kathakali was his karma…a duty assigned to him by the almighty. While speaking to the CNM at his residence at Cheliya, a hamlet near Koyilandi, guru speaks the styles and grace of Kathakali.

He also commemorates his forefathers in this field each moment and also shows his guru’s photos framed and kept at a small room where a large number of trophies and awards are showcased. “I got small roles like Krishna in the beginning. Hence, Krishna’s role became very popular in my plays.”


“There are kuttitharam, edatharam, randamtharam,agrasanam in Kathakali.Krishna’s role belonged to kuttitharam.I got only kuttitharam and thus I got Krishna’s role”, smiling guru shares the history behind his role as Krishna.

His nephew Padmanabhan,who is associated with guru’s Kathakali Vidyalayam Cheliya and an ardent devotee of this art, comments:

“Rarely, small roles become outstanding and one becomes so gracious in Kathakali.Ammaman‘s (Uncle’s) genius in this art is the reason.”

Kunhiraman Nair lost his parents when he was a small boy. He showed his interest in Kathakali, even at his school days. His play has some special charm while considering southern style of Kathakali.Guru gives the blend of dance rather than act to make it a wonderful experience. The southern style always gives importance to acting than dance.

Kunhiraman Nair born at Cheliya in Koyilandy.When he was only two and half his mother Ammukkutty Amma died.His father Chengottukav Madayankandi Chathukkutty Nair passed away when Kunhiraman Nair was only thirteen. His later life was under his uncles’ protection.

He used to act in dramas during his early days of primary education. Senior theatre personalities in those days noticed young Kunhiraman Nair’s talent in acting and asked him whether he was interested in Kathakali. Even though his uncles were against it, Kunhiraman Nair revealed his longing to learn Kathakali.Gradually Kunhiraman Nair learned Kathakali under C.C.Appukkuttan Nambiar of Koothali.

He has performed woman role also in Kathakali. His recent performance after completing 100 years, it was a revisiting of his first stage decades back.


Natyam, mudra and all the ingredients of Kathakali are here merged with devotion. That is the beauty of guru’s performance that no other of his genre can claim.

Guru’s Kathakali is also very popular among admirers in almost all southern states. Many cultural organizations invited guru to perform in these places. Most recently Kalakshethra Chennai awarded him Keerthymudra and citations. He spoke to the cnm the same day he returned from Chennai at his home in Chemancheri.When he showed us the most recent award guru was as excited as a beginner of this art. This is the style of guru; so simple and down to earth.

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