Theatre

Sadanam Balakrishnan looks back on his career

KOCHI, KERALA, 17/07/2019: Kathakali maestro Sadanam Balakrishnann during an interaction with The Hindu in Kochi on July 17, 2019.
Photo: Thulasi Kakkat

KOCHI, KERALA, 17/07/2019: Kathakali maestro Sadanam Balakrishnann during an interaction with The Hindu in Kochi on July 17, 2019. Photo: Thulasi Kakkat

Ask about his favourite role and Sadanam Balakrishnan picks Hanuman. “Apart from being my Guru’s favourite character, Hanuman is a one-of-a-kind character,” says the Kathakali maestro who turned 75 this month. “From being a vanar to attaining God-like status and being part of Ramayana and Mahabharata, Hanuman vesham portrays myriad emotions making it very challenging and rewarding.”

The septuagenarian, who began performing at the age of 11, is currently undergoing rejuvenation treatment at the Government Ayurveda College, Puthiyakavu. He was the first in his family to take up the art and gratefully remembers Kurumathur Narayanan Namboothiripad, the manager of his school, “He not just exposed me to Kathakali but also supported me in many ways including funding many of my initial performances and classes.”

Balakrishnan trained under his first guru, Kondiveetil Narayanan Nair for three years. Then he underwent a 10-year intensive training under Thekkinkatil Rammuni Nair and later Keezhupadathil Kumaran Nair at Gandhi Seva Sadan, Perur. This included an eight-year diploma and two years of post-diploma studies with a scholarship from the Central Government.

As he walks down memory lane, his eyes light up. He recalls performing in a temple at Palakkad with Keezhupadathil Kumaran Nair. “Aashan told the organisers that I would play Raavana and he would be Narada. His confidence and the fact that it was the first time I was in Raavana vesham with him makes it a cherished memory.”

Under Keezhupadathil’s wings, Balakrishnan learnt the techniques of adapting plays to suit Kathakali and perfected his preferred Kalluvazhi style. He is only the fourth person ever to learn and follow the style and stays true to it.

What makes him one of the most sought-after international artistes is his ability to adapt foreign plays and present them in without losing their essence. . Did he face any challenges while doing so? He smiles, “Overcoming them in itself is a great pleasure.”

Apart from being a Kathakali exponent, Balakrishnan has also written two books, which are ready for publication. “The first one is a compilation of 14 Aattakathakal or Kathakali texts, enumerating stories from Puranas, Greek tragedies, Shakespeare plays along with a Tagore poem and a composition named Vishwashanthi. The other publication is on my Guru, Padma Shri Keezhupadathil Kumaran Nair,” he says.


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Printable version | May 17, 2022 4:28:30 am | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/kathakali-maestro-sadanam-balakrishnan-looks-back-on-his-75-years-in-the-arts/article28618800.ece