At 84, he continues to be Kathakali’s everlasting hero, whose distinctive approach has redefined the artwork kind

Dr. Kalamandalam Gopi, who turns 84 this month, is usually described because the ‘Evergreen Hero’. In the world of Kathakali there have been a number of others with lengthy careers, however why has Gopi Asaan, as he’s reverentially referred to as, grow to be the poster boy for the dance kind? What makes him so particular?

The reply could also be present in a few incidents from his life. When Gopi Asaan returned to the stage in 1992 after a year-long absence and a serious surgical procedure, he selected for his comeback at Guruvayur the hardest position maybe in Kathakali, ignoring the recommendation of his buddies and gurus. Again, 25 years later, throughout his eightieth birthday celebrations at Thrissur, he selected to carry out the identical bodily demanding position — Dharmaputra in Kirmeeravadham — that includes a particularly gradual tempo sequence or padinja padam and requires his steady presence on stage for over three hours.

For Gopi Asaan, there are not any half measures, and no shortcuts. His guru, the late Padmanabhan Nair, had as soon as remarked that whereas educating an intricate rhythmic motion or kalasam, Gopi would do it time and again until it acquired ingrained in his psyche.

Gopi Asaan can also be naturally gifted with the bodily options perfect for a Kathakali artiste, and endowed with a face the place all shades of feelings seem with ease. But what has sustained him is his meticulousness in executing kalasams and his use of all the physique to precise. Even whereas he was extra well-liked because the romantic hero, enjoying Nala, Kacha, Karna and Rugmangatha, he didn’t shrink back from doing the demanding lead roles within the 4 main tales, Kottayam Kathakal, identified for his or her strict adherence to stylised construction.

Noted Kathakali connoisseur and humanities activist Okay.B. Rajanand calls Gopi Asaan a self-made artiste. “Apart from his sincere efforts to internalise the language of Kathakali, he paid close attention to make-up, and after much experimentation arrived on the scheme that complemented and accentuated his high cheekbones and the shape of his lips, nose and eyes.”

Rajanand additionally credit him with creating an idiom of his personal. “The changes he brought about — the precision and speed of his mudras, the variations in rhythm and tempo that he employs for the mudras, the way he uses his eyes to inject force into his gestures, certain unconventional postures that he strikes on the stage — all make him unique,” says Rajanand.

For fellow Kathakali artiste Ettumanoor P. Kannan, Gopi Asaan’s items go deeper. He says that the sum complete of Asaan’s efficiency, his angika and aharya, all could be termed satwika prakasam or a manifestation of satwika. But satwika on this context should not be confused with facial features, he cautions. “Satwika here has a deeper meaning — it is the inner energy, the source of inspiration and the font of emotions, thoughts and imaginations that power an artiste’s mind, be it in painting or the performing arts.”

From Ottanthullal to Kathakali

Vadakke Manalath Govindan was born in 1937 within the village of Kothachira in Palakkad district. When Gopi was in fourth customary, the native landlord acquired him to be taught the people artwork, Ottanthullal, his first step into the world of performing arts. When the Ottanthullal college closed down, Gopi was referred to as by the patron of a close-by village to a Kathakali kalari run by Thekkinkattil Ravunni Nair. When that too ended and the longer term appeared bleak, the prospect to hitch Kerala Kalamandalam introduced itself.

It is claimed that the poet Vallathol, who was instrumental in establishing Kalamandalam, took one take a look at Gopi and enrolled him within the institute in 1951 on the age of 14, even with out the necessary facial make-up take a look at. That second turned out to be a milestone in twentieth century Kathakali, when Gopi met the 2 nice gurus — Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair and Kalamandalam Padmanabhan Nair — who moulded him. Gopi says the seven-year course he accomplished in 1957 was pretty much as good as a 14-year course contemplating how rigorous and punishing it was. He was appointed a trainer there in 1958 and went on to grow to be the principal in 1990. He retired from Kalamandalam two years later.

No appreciation of Gopi Asaan will likely be full with out mentioning his contributions as a guru. Perhaps his most profound contribution got here after retirement, when he returned to his alma mater as professor emeritus. The undeniable fact that he has educated a number of generations of artistes will go a good distance in preserving a convention of Kathakali that has come to be generally known as the Kalamandalam kalari.

His ebook, the 400-page Nalacharita Prabhavam, an actor’s guide, was printed in 2017. Gopi Asaan says he didn’t got down to write a ebook, but it surely advanced when he was requested to coach post-graduate college students in Nalacharitam, historically not taught within the kalari. He additionally recollects how his guru Padmanabhan Nair, who wrote the stage manuals for the 4 Kottayam performs, exhorted him to compose one for Nalacharitam. “My voluminous notes to my students and my consultations with litterateurs on the various meanings and sub-texts of Nalacharitam ultimately took the form of the book.”

Gopi Asaan lives at Mundur, not removed from his place of origin, together with his spouse, two sons and their households. A seven-decade profession is now paused by the pandemic. As he turns 84, what does he really feel when wanting again? “I am filled with a sense of wonder. Coming from a small village I have traversed the world stage. There have been two constant sources of strength in my life — Guruvayoorappan and my wife Chandrika.”

It is indeniable that Asaan all the time had a really clear concept in regards to the philosophy of magnificence and all the time aimed for perfection. To quote Rajanand, “Gopi Asaan’s idiom o over time became the accepted stage language of Kathakali. He thereby shaped and defined the aesthetics of an entire generation and thus became part of the art form’s history.”


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