Early Life of Sivaraman
Sivaraman hails from the village of Karalmanna, located at Cherpulassery in Palakkad district of Kerala. He was born in 1936 as the son of Njaloor Kunhikrishnan Nair and Karthiayani at Kottakkal in Malappuram district. He began performing Kathakali at a young age of 13 years and performed in the country and outside till recently. He had Vazhenkata Kunchu Nair, his uncle as his guru, who is also the recipient of Padma Shri Award.
Kottakkal Sivaraman evolved into a performer and began his performance career with the PSV Natya Sangham, the Kathakali troupe at Kottakkal in north-central Kerala’s Malappuram district. In his pursuit to change the subordinate attitude towards female characters in a Kathakali play, Kottakkal Sivaraman by 1960s came up with a string of revolutionary ideas on stage. Sivaraman’s characterization was flawless. His efforts turned out successful and won the appreciation of aesthetes not only in his native Valluvanad, but also in central Kerala, which has been the playground for the refined "Kalluvazhi" style of Kathakali. Soon this due recognition echoed in other parts of Kerala.
In his more than fifty years of experience as a Kathakali actor, Sivaraman has performed many memorable female characters. He has shared the stage with actors of several generations across north and south Kerala. But it was with Padmashree Kalamandalam Gopi, another stalwart that he excelled as an outstanding pair on the Kathakali stage. Their memorable performances include the ones with Kottakkal Sivaraman as Damayanti and Nala by Gopi; then as Kunti and Karna and as Mohini and Rugmangadan. Sivaraman’s portrayal of Sairandhri (Draupadi in disguise as a maid) in the Kathakali play "Kichakavadham" had the eminent artiste Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair in the role of Kichaka. The performance earned Sivaraman lots of opportunities to perform, which enhanced his popularity.
Even though he relishes doing female characters, Sivaraman has also adorned the make-up of male characters and performed with elan. His notable male roles in Kathakali are that of Krishna in "Kuchelavrittam" and as Pushkara in "Nalacharitam". He has also choreographed a new play called "Pingala", based on the epic "Bhagavatham". In the inaugural show of the play, Sivaraman performed the lead role of Pingala.
Achievements of Kottakkal Sivaraman
Through hundreds of stages over the last five decades, Sivaraman has depicted a host of women characters from Indian mythology showing great emotional range and charm. Several honours have been bestowed on Kottakkal Sivaraman. Among the noted ones are the Kendra Sangeetha Nataka Akademi Award of the Government of India, Kendra Sahitya Academy, Kerala Sahitya Academy, Kerala Kalamandalam and the coveted Kerala State Government award - the Kathakali Puraskaram in 2009. For these roles he was given the ‘Sthree Ratnam’ award by Kerala Government recently.
The veteran Kathakali artiste showed unmatched prowess as a performer, which he has maintained throughout his career and won accolades from Kathakali experts for his versatility and classical precision. Sivaraman survived by wife Bhavani, son Girish and daughters Kalamandalam Ambili and Sujatha.