Vazhenkada Kunchu Nair
Vazhenkada Kunchu Nair, also spelt Kunju Nair, (1908-1981) was an outstanding Kathakali mastero of the 20th century. He was a unique legendary personality who was a brilliant performer, an excellent guru (teacher) and a scholar in Sanskrit that nobody could match in the world of Kathakali. He mainly served in two of the great institutions of Kathakali in Kerala as their Guru, first in PSV Natya Sangham, Kottakkal and from 1959 at Kerala Kalamandalam. He was the first principal of Kerala Kalamandalam, the premier performing arts institute of Kerala in south India. A Padma Shri awardee, Kunchu Nair was a frontline disciple of the legendary Pattikkamthodi Ravunni Menon, and was noted for his subdued portrayal of lead Kathakali roles like Nalan, Rukmangadan, Dharmaputrar, Bhiman, Arjunan, Brahmanan (in the storyplay Santanagopalam) and Parasuraman (Sitaswayamvaram) besides in anti-hero slots like Ravanan and Duryodhanan.
A native of Vazhenkada, now in Malappuram district, Kunchu Nair was initiated into Kathakali by gurus Kariyattil Koppan Nair and Kalluvazhi Govinda Pisharody. Subsequently, he became a disciple of Pattikkamthodi. Kunchu Nair, who also taught at the PSV Natyasangham in Kottakkal, has eminent disciples like Kalamandalam Vasu Pisharody, Kottakkal Sivaraman, Nelliyode Vasudevan Namboodiri and Kottakkal Chandrasekharan. Vazhenkada Vijayan, an ex-principal of Kalamandalam, is his son. Kunchu Nair died in 1981 after prolonged illness.
- Kathakali Encyclopedia (Vijnanakosam), page 319
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