Love for Kathakali is in Meena Narayan's blood. She is the great grand-daughter of K. C. Kesava Pillai, who wrote his first attakatha at age 15. She and her husband Narayan Nedungadi carry that legacy forward with a film on Kathakali maestro Kalamandalam Gopi

Meena Narayan is like a link in a continuing dream. A journalist, her inclination for art is inborn. Her passion for Kathakali, music and traditional art inherited. She has been in the forefront of promoting classical art and lending a helping hand to needy artistes.

Stepping away from her regular journalistic routine Meena has just completed the shoot of a docu-fiction on Kathakali's ‘superstar' Kalamandalam Gopi and has been one of the driving forces of the Bangalore Club for Kathakali and the Arts (BCKA).

Meena's love for Kathakali must have stemmed from her great-grand father K. C. Kesava Pillai, Poet Laureate of Travancore, composer of Carnatic music and one who wrote the ‘attakatha'- ‘Prahlada Charitham at age 15. And her father's brother, M. K. K. Nair, was the visionary who did so much for Kathakali, the artistes and Kerala Kalamandalam. “This fondness for Kathakali was there in the family. I grew up in such an atmosphere. My mother is also a Kathakali aficionado. The BCKA was her idea, her dream. And the film is a dedication to my uncle, M. K. K. Nair,” says Meena who was in the city to complete the post-production of the docu-film.

In different languages

‘Making of a Maestro,' an 80-minute film recreates the life of Gopi, his troubled childhood, initiation to Kathakali, Kalamandalam days, his rise to fame and focuses on some of his rare roles. The film, shot at different locations like Ottapalam, Shoranur, Pattambi and Kalamandalam, is set to be released sometime in August this year.

“The narration is in English. We will also have a Malayalam version. This film will also have French, Spanish, Italian, German and Japanese versions. We want the world to know about Gopi and his great art.”

Most of the actors are artistes from Kalamandalam. “There are some brilliant, young talents here, like Arun Warrier. The teenaged Gopi is played by Praveen, who has done a good job. We have chosen four or five roles, each one extremely different, that Gopi has portrayed amazingly. In fact, he performed for us,” adds Meena's husband, K. Narayan Nedungadi, who produces the film.

The film is a visual treat. V. K. Subhash's camera makes an impact. It captures the mood of the film, the actor's expressions, colours, the lovely locales. Editing is by Beena Paul and music by Balabhaskar. “We have tried to blend Balabhaskar's rather contemporary music to that of Kathakali music that is heard right through the film,” informs Meena.

Ask Meena about the Bangalore club, its goals and she gets eloquent. “Our attempt is to try and sustain the soul of classical art forms. A few of us like-minded people got together to see if we can try and prevent this large scale dilution in the classical arts. We want to retain them in its purest form. It's not just Kathakali we are trying to promote. The prime focus is on Kathakali because it is a traditional, intricate, classical art form that needs to be preserved. From this year, we plan to help young and senior artistes financially through awards and scholarships,” says Meena.

Both Meena and Narayan shuttle between Bangalore, their home base, and Dubai, where they are into publishing. Meena, who used to work for Khaleej Times earlier, is now editor-in-chief and managing partner of Gulf Connoisseur, a luxury lifestyle magazine. “Apart from the ‘Gulf Connoisseur' which is doing very well we also bring out three other specialised magazines. ‘Gulf Connoisseur' has been a winner of some of the most prestigious awards, like the Dubai Print Award. The other magazines like ‘The Address', which caters to hotels and the hospitality industry, ‘Spa Aficionado', and ‘Essence', which is all about jewellery and watches. We have plans to launch ‘Gulf Connoisseur' in India probably in October this year,” informs Narayan, who handles sales, marketing and also doubles up as the in-house automobile expert.

Meena has another project up her sleeve. She is gearing up for her first painting exhibition. “Titled ‘Haveli,' there will be 16 oil paintings on the four seasons.”

The raw rushes of the docu-film fade out. Bits of the music, flashes of Gopi's emotive face haunt you. Inside the darkened room the engineer settles down to make the final mix. Meena and Narayan sit down with him to give finishing touches to their passionate dream.

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