Man behind Nataka Kalari fading into insignificance

The persons who attended the camp comprised a list of who is who' of the world of creativity in Malayalam in those days.

KOCHI: The Golden Jubilee of the Nataka Kalari, a unique event in the history of theatre in Kerala, will be held on Sunday in Kochi. Conceived and executed by the late CN Sreekantan Nair, it has been instrumental in ushering a new theatre culture in Kerala and the emergence of theatre personalities such as G Sankara Pillai and Kavalam Narayana Panikkar. Unfortunately, the name of CN, the man behind the venture and the director of the Kalari, has often been obliterated in the narrative connected with the history of the Nataka Kalari.

Speaking to this newspaper, his son CN Unnikrishnan, now based in Qatar, said he was happy that a group of theatre aficionados had taken the initiative to observe the golden jubilee. “I am happy and delighted that Adoor Gopalakrishnan is inaugurating the meeting to mark the 50 years of the Nataka Kalari in Kochi. I also take this opportunity to make it clear that CN Sreekantan Nair was the person behind the idea and its execution. His friendship with Prakkulam Bhasi, the then president of Travancore Devaswom Board, was instrumental in getting the college under the Board as a venue for holding the event in 1967”.

Stating that he was not interested in kicking up any controversy Mr Unnikrishnan, however, said history should be recorded correctly. “My purpose of saying this is only to correct an erroneous impression that has been created over the years. The sudden demise of my father in 1976 at the age of 48 might have contributed to the historical amnesia, and I hope that the new generation will correct the erroneous impression in coming days”, he said.

The idea of a camp for theatre germinated in the mind of CN, a versatile writer known for the trilogy of plays based Ramayana, as he searched for a new idiom for theatre in the state. CN, an accomplished creative personality, was also known for having an exemplary capacity for bringing together people from diverse areas of creativity. The Nataka Kalari held on the campus of the Devaswom Board College in Sasthamkotta in the outskirts of Kollam was an example of this unique capacity. The persons who attended the camp comprised a list of ‘who is who’ of the world of creativity in Malayalam in those days. A picture taken on the last day of the camp kept in the private collection of Unnikrishnan shows M. Govindan, Ayyappa Panikkar, G. Aravindan, Kainikkara Kumara Pillai and G. Sankara Pillai and others.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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