(Last Updated on : 02/02/2015)
Gopi Nath was an eminent Kathakali dancer
, innovator and scholar. He is regarded as the greatest preserver of the dance
tradition. He had invented a new form that he named Kerala Natanam and reduced the long rigorous course of Kathakali
. He was honoured with the Veera Srumkhala by the King of Travancore.
Early Life of Gopi Nath
Gopi Nath was born on 24 June 1908 in Champakulam village
in Alappuzha district
. His parents were Madhavi Amma and Kaippilli Sankara Pillai. He was the younger brother of Champakulam Pachu Pillai
He was initially trained under great masters of Kathakali like Champakkulam Paramu Pillai, Mathoor Kunjupilla Panicker, and Thakazhi Kesava Panicker at Champakkulam. Then he received training in southern style of acting in kathakali, which gives importance to abhinaya
. His main teacher was Kavalappara Narayanan at 'Kerala Kalamandalam' where he was asked to join as a special student for higher studies in northern style. He took lessons in Abhinaya (acting) from Guru Kunchu Kurup
Career and Works of Gopi Nath
Gopi Nath developed a shorter syllabus and duration of training for Kathakali under which the 12 years Kathakali course was reduced to 6 years, without deviating from its classical tradition. He also invented a new form that he named Kerala Natanam i.e. 'Kerala Dance', premiered in 1934 at Kottayam
. His spectacular achievements began in 1936 when he joined the famous American dancer Ragini Devi to tour worldwide. In a sense, he gave Kathakali much needed exposure. Rabindranath Tagore
happened to see him perform and said that none equalled him in the perfection of art.
Gopi Nath's facial expressions were wonderful. He proved Kathakali's flexibility by introducing major changes in costumes. He copied the crowns and dresses of gods
as seen on statues in different temples
, which art lovers welcomed. Appointed as palace dancer
by the Travancore Maharaja, he resigned later to lead productions throughout India.
Books by Gopi Nath
He wrote many books, such as-
Natana Kairali i.e. Dance of Kerala
Abhinayaprakasika i.e. Expression of Abhinaya
Talavum Natanavum i.e. Tala and Dance'
Abhinayankuram i.e. Seedling of Abhinaya
Kathakalinatanam i.e. Kathakali Dance
An autobiography titled Ente Jivita Smaranakal i.e. My Life Memories.
Honours and Awards Conferred on Gopi Nath
He was awarded the Veera Srumkhala from Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, the King of Travancore.
He was honoured with a doctorate by Rabindra Bharathi University.
His statue was erected in Viswa Bharathi University.
Personal Life of Gopi Nath
Gopinath was married to the great Mohiniyattam
dancer and exponent of Kerala Natanam- Mulakkal Thankamani Amma. They have four children; three daughters and a son. Gopi Nath breathed his last in 1987.