27 January, 2021

Kathakali Diary

Kalamandalam Gopi--the greatest living Kathakali performer-- on the artform and the improbable stardom he enjoys, even at 80!

Kathakali Diary
Shade ’n light

It was precisely this time a quarter century ago, at 54, that I went through the most traumatic phase in my life. I had suffered a slipped disc (off stage) and the doctor gave up, and told me I could never perform again! Shattered, I wept inconsolably before my deity, Guruvay­ur­appan. And He brought me back, within six months, to where I always belonged: the bare, cold floor of the Kathakali arangu. The venue: where else, but Guruvayur. A wave of untold grace and relief washed over me as I took the stage. A huge crowd had turned up. I remember that night-long show clearly: it was May 1992, a couple of days before I retired as principal from Kalamandalam, also my alma mater.

My trysts with that famed temple town haven’t been all about piety, of course. Guruvayur was also where I spent a lot of my boh­emian days. Jayasree lodge used to be a frequent haunt for us friends; we played cards and went on bouts of...



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