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Vellinezhi is a small but culturally crucial village located in Palakkad district of Kerala in southern India. The sylvan, rugged land is located on the banks of the Kunti, a slender rivulet that forms tributary to the broad, west-flowing Bharatapuzha that criss-crosses central Kerala in southern India. It is famous for the huge number of Kathakali and traditional Kerala percussion artistes it has churned out over a period of decades and centuries—in a hoary way in its feudal past, and at a relatively slower place in today's liberal-economy world. The nearest small town is Cherpulassery, some seven kilometres away.
Vellinezhi is one of the 14 desams (small duchy-like territories), and is home to Olappamanna Mana, one of the centuries-old feudal Namboothiri (Kerala Brahmin) mansions Illam. Olappamanna, now a vacated abode that exists as a trust that lets its premises out for weddings and film/docu/teleserial shoots, was, in its heyday till the mid-20th century, the residence of luminaries such as the late Kunjunni Nambudiripad on whom the title of Rao Bahadur was awarded by the ruling British. And more recently, it also gave birth to the renowned scholar, the late O.M.C. Narayanan Nambudiripad (who gave a Malayalam interpretration to the Rigveda), the late poet Mahakavi Subrahmanian Nambudiripad (simply Olappamanna, his pen name) and author-scholar Dr O.M. Anujan. In the early 20th century, it was in Olappamanna Mana that the legendary Pattikkamthodi Ravunni Menon redefined the aesthetics of the Kalluvazhi tradition of Kathakali.
Revolving around the cultural patronage of the Olappamanna Mana and the locally famous temples like Sri *Kanthalloor kshethram and Chenginikottu Kavu, Vellinezhi has grown in stature as the homestead of a few classical Kerala art forms. Primary among them is the dance-drama, Kathakali, the technical precision and aethetic quality of which rose to great heights during the life and times of Pattikkamthodi Ravunni Menon who polished and made the Kalluvazhi style of the art artfully elaborate. It is his set of disciples, along with the playback musicians, percussionists, make-up (chutti), costumes (petti) artistes that he groomed who later made Vellinezhi proud. The village, critically, has a house named Kothavil that has specialised in the craft of designing and making Kathakali costumes.
Kerala-style percussion ensembles like chenda melam, thayambaka and panchavadyam too have enriched from a flurry of artistes that Vellinezhi has produced over the years. The village has a high school that included Kathakali teachers and allied tutors among its faculty. Vellinezhi has also been the chief locale for Vanaprastham, an acclaimed Malayalam feature film that has won several awards. In fact, the house of Kunjukkutan, the protagonist in the movie (played by Mohanlal), had been the residence of the late Kathakali guru Padma Shri Keezhpadam Kumaran Nair.
The heritage village of Vellinezhi is now slowly but steadily transforming to a more populous, mixed-culture locality like most pockets of Kerala. Even so, it has a dense air of Kathakali and traditional arts; its people are getting less related to Kathakali and are finding new jobs. Yet, even among the growing culture of planting rubber estates, it manages to produce young artistes belonging to a traditional, ethnic art—largely Kathakali and Kerala's percussion concerts like chenda melam and panchavadyam.