At 84, theatre thespian Kavalam Narayana Panicker shows no signs of retreating from his world of theatre. “There is more to come,” he says as he joins his students for a talk on theatre traditions on his birthday on Friday.

The gathering was organised by the Kavalam Samskrithi in connection with the 84th birthday elebrations of the cultural icon at the ‘Sopanam' kalari at Thrikkannapuram near here.

There was a steady stream of visitors from the morning - his students, theatre artistes, and people from the literary and cultural fields expressing their profound love for their teacher.

While some sought his blessings, a few embraced him and presented him a ‘ponnada.' And the beaming teacher made sure he had a word with everyone.

Even before one complete the question about the decline of theatre culture, there comes a vehement ‘no', with a dramatic touch from the dramatist who has breathed life into the theatre culture in this part of the world.

“Theatre can never die. Theatre is intimately linked with our culture and it is only an illusion among many people that cinema has killed this art. The wealth of cinema has its roots in the theatre,” he points out.

Standing nearby, director Shaji N.Karun and script writer Puthussery Ramachandran say they believe that Panicker's contribution has inspired many in this field to take on challenges.

“His creations have a unique identity and have influenced the medium of cinema at many levels. He continues to inspire many with his work,” said Karun.

Panicker, who has been keen on restoring indigenous ‘thalas' and rhythms in his works, says that if one makes a genuine effort to seek one's own unique identity without aping the western theatre tradition, it will be an unparalleled feat in the world of theatre.

Future of theatre

For the many working in this field, theatre has helped them to build a good sensibility about life. The future of theatre, Panicker says, is in the hands of young people.

Educate the children about our culture and the importance of acquiring knowledge that is “out of syllabus”, said the founder-director of the theatre troupe Sopanam.

Actor Nedumudi Venu, one of his students, can only agree to the ‘education beyond the syllabus' part. “If Panicker sir had not shown the way and guided me at every step, I would not have realised my true calling,” he says. His students celebrated his birthday with a feast.

Soon after, as a tribute to his contributions to the cultural world, ‘Nadaneerajanam' followed, where the students recited from a few works and folk songs composed by Panicker. Eighty-four lamps were also lit on the occasion.

Keywords: theatre