Kavalam Narayana Panicker

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For other people with similar names, see K. M. Panikkar, K. N. Panikkar, or K. Ayyappa Panicker.
Kavalam Narayana Panicker
Kavalam Narayana Panicker during a function in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, South India on 24 July 2011.
Born (1928-04-28) 28 April 1928 (age 86)
Kavalam, Kerala
Nationality Indian
Other names Kavalam Narayana Panikkar
Occupation playwright, theatre director, lyricist

Kavalam Narayana Panicker (or Panikkar) (born 28 April 1928) is an Indian dramatist, theatre director and poet. He has written over 26 Malayalam plays, many adapted from classical Sanskrit drama and Shakespeare, notably Madhyamavyayogam (1979), Kalidasa's Vikramorvasiyam (1981, 1996), Shakuntalam (1982), Karnabharam (1984, 2001), Bhasa's Uru Bhangam (1988), Swapnavasavadattam and Dootavakyam (1996).[1][2] He is the founder-director of theatre troupe, Sopanam, which led to the foundation of 'Bhashabharati: Centre for Performing Arts, Training and Research, in Trivandrum.[3]

He was awarded the 1983 Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in Direction by Sangeet Natak Akademi, India's National Academy of Music, Dance and Drama, which gave him its highest award for lifetime achievement the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship in 2002.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

He was born in the village of Kavalam, into an ancient family from Kuttanad in Alappuzha, Kerala, India. His family name is Chalayil and he is a nephew of Sardar Kavalam Madhava Panikkar and a cousin of Dr. K. Ayyappa Panicker, a Malayalam poet.[5]

He attended CMS College in Kottayam whose alumni included K.P.S. Menon and his uncle Sardar K.M. Panikkar. He obtained a degree in Economics from S D College, Alappuzha and later a Bachelor of Law degree from Madras Law College.


He started his career as a lawyer in 1955 and practised law for six years before devoting himself to art and literature. In 1961 he was nominated as Secretary of Kerala Sangeetha Nadaka Academy, Thrissur and shifted his base to Thrissur, the cultural capital of Kerala. His work has always been rooted in both the classical and folk traditions of Kerala.

In 1974, Kavalam shifted his residence to the state capital Thiruvananthapuram. In this period his play Avanavan Kadamba was filmed by G. Aravindan. He has worked in many countries, including the former Soviet Union. In Greece he worked with Greek artists on a production of the Ilyayana, a fusion of the Indian Ramayana and the Greek epic Iliad.

He has directed two movies about the greatest Kutiyattam maestro legendary actor Guru Mani Madhava Chakyar: Mani Madhava Chakyar: The Master at Work (1994) and Parvati Viraham (1993) in Kuttiyattam form featuring Mani Madhava Chakyar as Ravana.[6] As a lyricist in Malayalam cinema, he has written for films like Ulsavapittennu, Manjadikuru (2008), Vadakakkoru Hridayam (1978) and Marmaram (1982). He won Kerala State Film Award for Best Lyrics for the latter two films.

Mani Madhava Chakyar: The Master At Work- A biographical film about Guru Mani Madhava Chakkiar directed by K. N. Panicker

He has remained a consultant at Asianet Communications and vice-chairman for Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi.

Personal life[edit]

He is married and has two sons. He lives in Thiruvananthapuram with his wife Saradamani and also has another house in his native village. His sons are Kavalam Harikrishnan and Kavalam Sreekumar. His elder son Kavalam Harikrishnan served as BHASABHARATHI's Chief contact person before he died in October 2009. His younger son Kavalam Sreekumar is a famous singer in Kerala.[7] Sreekumar has sung innumerable folk and light music numbers over the past 3 decades. He has also been singing for Malayalam Movies over the years.[8]

Awards and recognition[edit]

He was awarded Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1983 and Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship in 2002 and the Padma Bhushan civilian decoration in 2007.[9]

He has won Kerala State Film Award for Best Lyrics twice, in 1978 for Vadakakkoru Hridayam and in 1982 for Marmaram, and Kalidas Samman for (1994–1995).

  • 2013 – TTK Prestige-Vanitha Film Awards – Best Lyricist – Amen[10]

Best Male Singer


  • The Right to rule (Kōyma) ; and, The domain of the sun (Sūryasthāna). Seagull Books, 1989. ISBN 81-7046-071-9.
  • Folklore of Kerala. National Book Trust, India, 1991.
  • Karimkutty ; and, The lone tusker. Seagull Books, 1991. ISBN 81-7046-092-1.



External links[edit]