Thursday, May 23, 2013

ഉണ്ണികൃഷ്ണക്കുറുപ്പ് : വിടപറഞ്ഞ ദിവ്യഗായകൻ - C M Narayanan

One of the advantages I had of growing up is that we never escape some conversation on Kathakali almost every day, a padam hummed by elders, a reference to some story, some anecdote or some visit . Despite your ability to grasp and understand the nuances, you were pulled along to those cold , shivery nights ( Jan /Feb ) for a full night Kathakali. There were preferences in the choices of elders. Most of them were drawn to the established names of traditional "Kalluvazhi" style and its propagators like Ramankurtty Nair, Padmanabhan Nair, KR Kumaran Nair ( note the use of KR against more popular Keezhpadam) Vellinezhi Nanu Nair etc. When it comes to singing I found the majority preferred Neelakandan Nambisan and Unnikrishna Kurup ( the combo had guaranteed audience).  It was during those half asleep nights, I've used to listen to the some what flat, very distinct , often difficult to differentiate the words from the music singing of Kurup.  As young boys, we were awake and see the first 'katha' mostly of the Nalacharitam , Santhanagopalam and Kuchelavruttam types and when it comes to the meaty second ( heavy weight kathi), our eyes defy the elders and our own wish and find itself shut from the rest of the world. However, the return journey typically have the in-depth critical analysis and it is through these discussions, we formed some of the limited understanding that we gained over the period of time.

I have, always found an admiring remarks about the music especially of Unnikrishna Kurup. It can be safely said that the Kathakali Padam came into prominence during the era of Neelakandan Nambisan and his disciples most notable among them being Unnikrishna Kurup. Though I had the luck of attending many Kathakali events where Sri Kurup was performing, it is only now, after many many years, that I'm able to appreciate the music.  He was different. A rebel by all means. A versatile singer who sings to the stage. Who gets to the depth of the character and the actor on stage and sings to the occasion. Often moving the listeners and the artist in its mesmerizing beauty. Marimankanni from Nalacharitam 3rd Day, is the benchmark of dwijavanti. No other rendition be it akhilandeswari or Chetasri Balakrishnam or any other had the same impact as 'mariman kanni'. The reference to me is the version from Unnikrishna Kurup.

All these are to talk about the recent read I had on the life and Music of this gifted singer. While most of the leading exponents of Kathakali had their own memoirs ( mostly the actors), there was no such on the other artists of the great art form. It was left to the fans and well wishers to organise the remembrance. Unfortunately, Unnikrishna Kurup, did not have any of these. A prodigy, left us 25 year ago, at a relatively young age of 57, had no written pages on his name. C M Narayanan, a second generation desciple of Unnikrishna Kurup, came out with a book, a collection of various writings, on his grand-guru, in 2006 , 18 years after the death of the singer.

The book dwells very less into the details of his biography. It does touch upon his family, his early days, his days at Kalamandalam ( he had no formal training in Kathakali Music, after running away from Kalamandalam) , his days in Darpana Ahmedabad, the teaching days at Shanti Niketan were mentioned. However C M Narayanan himself spent his effort on looking at his music especially that of Nalacharitam in detail. In a very scholarly fashion, he explain the nuances and specialities of the singing style of Kurup, his improvisations, some memorable performances. The second part is largely a collation of various writings about Unnikrishna Kurup by critics, by Palanad Divakaran ( his prime disciple and torch bearer of Kurup-style) and reproduction of relevant pages and paragraphs from articles and books published.

While this is not a comprehensive book on the life and times of the master singer, it did bring out , for the first time, a collection of writings on Kurup and for the fans of his music, it provided a place to reminiscent the golden days of Kathakali padam.

ഉണ്ണികൃഷ്ണക്കുറുപ്പ് : വിടപറഞ്ഞ ദിവ്യഗായകൻ  ( 2006)

C M Narayanan


158 Pages

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