Age could not wither his passion for the stage

Guru Chemancheri Kunhiraman Nair passed away at the age of 104.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Guru Chemancheri Kunhiraman Nair, who died here on Monday at the age of 104, was a seasoned Kathakali actor and he played a significant role in making classical dances such as Bharatanatyam popular in north Kerala.

Remarkably, he continued to perform till a few years ago. Age could not wither his passion for the stage. He was indeed one of Kerala’s most durable performing artistes. After learning the Kalladikkodan school of Kathakali from Guru Karunakara Menon, he began performing at the age of 15.

One recalls watching him enact the role of Parashurama with great vigour before a full house at the Town Hall here some seven years ago.

His contribution as a teacher of classical dances in north Kerala, where there were only a few practitioners at the time, was also considerable. He trained several youngsters, who later became dance teachers. Classical dance did not have too many takers those days in Malabar. It would be decades before the State School Arts Festival turned it into a much sought-after, glamorous event.

Several accolades

Chemancheri, a recipient of Padma Shri as well as the Centre’s and Kerala’s Sangeeta Nataka Akademi Awards, was, in fact, the first guru of actor-dancer Vineeth, one of the biggest stars of the School Festival. It was by sheer accident – quite literally, too – that he became Chemancheri’s disciple.

“My mother was working as a doctor at the government hospital in Koyilandy and one day, she attended a man who was badly injured in a road accident,” Vineeeth had once told The Hindu. “She was one of the three doctors who treated him; when they recognised he was a dancer, they decided against amputating one of his fingers though it was badly damaged. How could one show a mudra in dance without a finger?”

Vineeth’s mother was at the time on the lookout for a dance teacher for him. Chemancheri thus became his guru. In 2015, he performed Bharatanatyam at a function to celebrate his guru’s 99th birthday.

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Printable version | Jul 30, 2021 3:56:40 PM |

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