Spotlight Kathakali maestro Kottakkal Chandrasekhara Warrierhas won acclaim as a teacher,performer and choreographer. V.Kaladharan

One reason why a traditional art form like Kathakali survives despite the odds is the organic energy of a select group of top-ranking performers. Kottakkal Chandrasekhara Warrier is one among them. He is known to Kathakali rasikas all over the country and abroad for his immaculate portrayal of Nayakas (heroes) and Prathinayakas (anti-heroes).

Chandrasekharan’s innate interest in Kathakali was first realised by his parents, A.M. Kumaraswamy Bhattathirippad and P.V.Parukkutty Warassiyar. He was put under the tutelage of renowned guru Chethalloor Kuttapanickar. Following his arangettam as Krishna in the play ‘Duryodhanavadham’, Chandrasekharan joined the P.S.V. Natyasangham, Kottakkal, for intensive training in Kathakali. Thespians Vazhenkada Kunju Nair and Kottakkal Krishnankutty Nair taught him the texts, contexts and characterisations of all the key plays for eight years without a break. In 1967, Chandrasekharan joined his alma mater as instructor of Kathakali. Chandrasekharan was singularly fortunate in simultaneously building up his career as a teacher and performer. As a teacher, he had to do all the essential reading and equip himself with sound knowledge – theoretically and practically. On stage, he got many opportunities to perform with titans such as Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair and Chengannur Raman Pillai. Chandrasekharan’s confidence grew day by day. Marvellous stage-presence coupled with an unerring sense of rhythm made him a favourite of the Kathakali buffs all over Kerala.

Next to Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair and Kalamandalam Gopi, art aficionados recognised Chandrasekharan as an inevitable presence for all the major Kathakali recitals.

His position as the lead actor and teacher of the P.S.V. Natyasangham soon proved to be a feather in his cap. Side by side with well-disciplined characterisation in the plays of Kottayathu Thampuran and the like, Chandrasekharan has displayed an enviable skill to choreograph new plays for the P.S.V. Natyasangham. ‘Satyavan Savitri’, ‘Sri Guruvayoorappan’ and ‘Arjuna Vishadavrittam’ were choreographed by him.

Chandrasekharan’s competence as an actor and dancer finds its fullest expression in his presentation of the Pratinayakas such as Duryodhana, Keechaka, Ravana, Narakasura and Sisupala. Incidentally his portrayal of Soorpakan in the play ‘Ayyappacharitam’ is noticeably different from the rest. The dance-segment executed in it together with Mohini in ‘panchari’ is an amusing visual treat. Sringara and hasya rasas are Chandraskeharan’s forte. A mixture of both make his villainous characters unforgettable.

Although a disciple of Vazhenkada Kunju Nair, whose actions and expressions invariably carried a profound sense of reasoning, Chandrasekharan, contrary to the expectations of the initiated among the audience, sometimes takes too liberties in his angika and satwikabhinayas. At times, lokadharmi (realistic acting) invades his characterisations, posing a threat to the structural finesse of the protagonists he identifies with. But when he deals with those characters on the firm footing of cholliyattam, this anomaly is seldom noticed.

Chandrasekharan has bagged numerous awards and honours in recognition of his contributions to Kathakali. These include the Central Sangeet Natak Akademy Award in 2006 and Kerala Kalamandalam Award in 2007. Recently Kerala Kalamandalam also conferred on him its fellowship.

Chandrasekharan has, by and large, adhered to the innate discipline of Kathakali. Yet he has boldly set fresh standards in the choreography of those plays that call for new interventions. As a venerable guru and audacious experimentalist, he has proved himself to be a distinctive entity in the history of Kathakali.

Chandrasekharan was singularly fortunate in simultaneously building up his career as teacher and performer.