Kalamandalam Gopi is the recipient of this year's Kerala Sangeeta Nataka Akademi fellowship.
Kalamandalam Gopi, one of the greatest exponents of Kathakali, is the recipient of this year's Kerala Sangeeta Nataka Akademi fellowship. Gopi is the evergreen hero of Kathakali who displays satwik qualities distinguished by the pacha (green) make-up donned by the Pandavas, Karna, Nala, Rugmangada and so on. In addition to Gopi's comprehensive training from Kerala Kalamandalam, especially under Padmanabhan Nair, his physique is best suited to play such characters. When Gopi, whose actual name is V.M. Govindan Nair, was hardly 10, he began his formal training in `Ottanthullal.' After a year, a relative persuaded his parents, Vadakkath Veetil Gopalan Nair and Manalath Unnyathi Amma, to send their son to learn Kathakali under Thekkinkattil Ravunni Nair. However, the arrangement did not work out and so Gopi joined the Kerala Kalamandalam. "My first three years of training under Padmanabhan Nair Asan perfected my cholliyattam," reminisces Gopi. When he graduated from the Kalamandalam in 1957, he was appointed a teacher in the alma mater.
Mythical heroesThe innumerable heroes he portrayed with the then junior troupe of the Kalamandalam during the Sixties and early Seventies brought him experience and fame. Whether the technically demanding role of the heroes in the stories of Kottayam Thampuran or characters like Nalan, Rugmangadan, Karnan and so on, roles requiring bhavas such as Sringara, Veera, and Karuna bring out the best of the actor in him. Kalamandalam Gopi's partnership with Kottakkal Sivaraman in the female role is considered the epitome of performance of Sringara (romance) in Kathakali. For instance, stories such as `Nalacharitam,' `Karnasapadam' and `Rugmangadacharitam' find the duo at their scintillating best. In fact, the Gopi-Sivaraman team played a remarkable role in popularising the late Mali V. Madhavan Nair's magnum-opus `Karnasapadam,' written in the Sixties. Kalamandalam Gopi's Arjuna in `Santhanagopalam,' Bheeman in `Kalyanasougandhigam,' and Roudra Bheeman in `Duryodanavadham' are some of his celebrated roles. The award, though late, is a befitting honour for the maestro, who turns 70 on May 25.