(Last Updated on : 04-08-2014)
Thengin Thottathil Ramankutty Nair is a reputed Kathakali guru. Presently he is known as Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair. He was born in the Thengin Thottathil household in Nhalakurussi village, near Cherpalcheri, Palakkad district in 1925. At 11 he began Kathakali lessons in Vellinezhi Kalari under Pattikkantodi Ramunni Menon. In 1939 he joined the Kerala Kalamandalam for higher studies. Ramankutty Nair specialized in valorous and angry characters like the ascetic Parasurama, that was his masterpiece for about three decades and also Hanuman in Torana-yuddham i.e. 'War over the Gateway' and Kalyana saugandhika i.e. 'Auspicious Fragrant Flower'. He learnt all the roles in which Ramunni was an expert. The roles can be mentioned as katti like Ravana, Kichaka, Duryodhana, and paccha like Bhima, Daksha, Arjuna. He avoided sattvika or pure characters like Rukmangada, to which he could not do justice. Although he did not want to act the vellattati divine animals, Ramunni asked him to do such roles. He eventually enacted Hanuman thousands of times, equaled by none in Kathakali for its spirit of devotion.
In any character, his cholliattam or acting to songs is unparalleled. He claims regular and laborious practice as the secret of his ease in presentation and physical flexibility even in his mid-70s. However, he also experimented with innovative choreography. In ilakiattam or acting to percussion, the subtle body movements, minute elaboration, and speedy changes of hand gestures show his experience. Lazy artistes might feel certain expansions are unnecessary, but whatever he explains is true to the nature of particular characters. The perfection of specific mudras vis-a-vis posture is evident in his characterization. He has a special sense of rhythm. Where a slight variation is needed, he beats his foot with extra vigour and this strong step makes the rendering of the technical kalasam dances beautiful. Ramankutty Nair served Kerala Kalamandalam for thirty-five years, retiring as principal. As its troupe leader and main actor he toured internationally many times and performed in documentaries.