A MAN OF COMMITMENT FROM GOD’S OWN COUNTRY
Dancing is life dreaming with your feet which costs next to nothing than a therapy. It has innate power to make you rejuvenate momentarily. These formulae were gleefully admitted by Sadanam Balakrishnan, a renowned Kathakali exponent and author in the country. Born in the year 1944 at Taliparamba, Kannur in Kerala to Late Sri A.V. Krishnan and Sri Umayamma, Sri Sadanam Puthiya Veetil Balakrishnan is a man of commitment to his art form. He has completed eight years of Diploma and two years of Post Diploma in Kathakali dance with the help of scholarships from Central Government. He was also a part of Rashtra Bhasha Praveen of Dakshin Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha.
Since his childhood, Sri Balakrishnan was always interested in the Kathakali art form. He began to learn Kathakali art from various eminent Kathakali proponents such as Kondaveeti Narayanan Nair Asan, Brahmashree Kurumathur Narayanan Namboodiripad. He also underwent intensive training at Gandhi Seva Sadanam Kathakali Academy, situated in Palakkad district.
The idea of becoming a dancer has stroke Sri Balakrishnan at a very tender age. When he was in his sixth grade in South Higher Elementary school, he was one of those twelve students who were selected among sixty students to learn the Kathakali art form.
Beginning his dance journey, his first Kathakali guru was Sri Kondiveeti Narayan Nair Asan who helped his to give his very first performance within one year at his school anniversary during the year 1956. His first performance was as ‘Sri Krishna’ in the play of “Duryodhanavadham”, which won many hearts. This success was not a day’s hard work.
He used to spend ninety minutes every day in travelling to a place to learn dance, which was appropriately six kilometers from his residence. However, he managed to overcome hurdles which he faced while learning Kathakali. His pledge was to yield good results in his works for which he spent two years and gave excellent performance as Sri Krishna in “Kuchelavritham” and as Arjuna in “Kiratham”.
With his promising work, he was able to build a strong bond with the School Manager Brahmashri Kurumathur Narayanan Namboothiripad, who was very kind and generous to him and has made arrangements for him to learn dance at Gandhi Seva Sadanam Kathakali and Dance Academy in Kerala which was one of the leading Kathakali schools. This Kathakali School has funded him for almost eight years completely.
While in this school, he got an opportunity to learn from other eminent Gurus such as Natyacharyan Thekinkatil Ramunny Nair Asan and many others. After his Post Graduation, he was appointed as a teacher and as a performer in his Alma Mater (Gandhi Seva Sadanam).
In the year 1980, Sri Balakrishnan has taken the charge of Principal and Director of ICK, Delhi and was retired in 2006. Since then, he was associated with Kalashetra Foundation, Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts as a visiting fellowship member for the department of Kathakali.
Sri Balakrishnan was always fond of the local, colorful, ritual dance form which was called “Theyyam”. He never missed single opportunity to witness these local art forms of his region. Though his parents were not happy with the idea of him learning Kathakali, they never opposed or tried suppressing his interests but always remained lovable parents to him. With core support and blessings from Sree Narayanan Namboothiripad, Balakrishnan grew to become powerful artist of Kathakali.
Though there was a rigid training regime which was prevailing in those days, he never looked back or gave up, but always strived hard to excel in this Kathakali art form. His idea of promoting the dance tradition is to continue the legacy of his very first Guru Mr. Kumaran, Nair who always remains as an ideal person to Sri Balakrishnan.
Sri Balakrishnan wishes to share the knowledge and experiences, which he acquired by his Guru. He believes in inspiring the current young generation who are exposed to various art forms by his performances constituting innovative ideas, relevant themes and sensible dance from of work. He urges to sustain the essence of Indian culture and tradition and uplifts its divinity with his hull capacity.
According to Mr. Balakrishnan, Kathakali acquired great significance, among the four classical dance forms of the Ancient India. Later, various dance forms like Odissi, Mohiniyattam, Kuchipudi, Satriya, Chou and others were added into the list of Dance forms of Contemporary India. In the cultural fabric of India, Kathakali has a keen role to play in the art building.
He states that Kathakali art form is not just a dance; it is a highly systematic traditional dance drama which obeys the norms put forth by Rishi Bharatha for a Natya in his Natyashastra. But Kathakali never follows a single treatise for its aesthetic approach. This art form is originated in Kerala and was nurtured with various native traditional art forms. Kathakali was basically inspired by Kootiyattam which was gradually developed into well balanced combination of two different cultures (North and South India).
Sri Balakrishnan spends most of his time in practicing Kathakali. At times of leisure, he spends time in reading Puranas, epics and other Indian Aesthetic writings. He is a man who adopts according to his surroundings with a strict diet regime. He likes being simple and sees himself as a man who preaches the dignity of the art and would like to sustain the purity of the art forms.
For Mr. Balakrishnan sixty years of art life was not a cake walk. He faced numerous obstacles during his journey. One of the most challenging moments in his life, was when he was to suppose to give an experimental production which was based on Shakespeare’s “Othello”, facing much criticism. With self belief and confidence, he succeeded in his attempt.
Another best moment for him to cherish, was playing a role of Hanuman in “Kalyanasaugandhikam” in presence of his Guru Shri Kurumathur Narayanan Namboothiripad which was the most defining moment in his life. His Guru was extremely happy with Sri Balakrishnan when his Guru’s efforts were fruitful.
In view of trending fusion culture, he believes that the purity of dance remains unaffected as it depends upon the approach. May be for novelty and popularity, a professional dancer would adopt this system of fusion and experimentation. This can carry out a negative impact on the dance form, because the individual perspective of approach may vary from time to time and person to person.
Sri Balakrishnan is a true believer of art and believes that with sincere, dedicated effort one can never be a failure. Art is meant for entertainment. Where all art forms are purely meant for entertainment, but the fact differs in the Country of India. While in India, traditional art forms play a key role of focus on improvement of an individual both mentally and physically in the form of entertainment. There is an inclination of this system in this modern era.
Throughout his dance journey, Sri Balakrishnan was a recipient of numerous awards. Some of his notable awards are Swathi Thirunal Nadalaya Award in the year,1986, Mookambika Kathakali Vidyalaya Award in the year 2003, Natana Bhaskara Award from Bharata Kalanjali and Bhaskara in the year 2003, “Guru Pattikamthodi Smaraka Puraskara” from Gandhi Seva Sadanam Kathakli Academy in the year 2006, Natyakalaratnam and Gold Medal from Mattannur Mahadeva Kshetram & Mattannur Pancha Vadya Sangham in the year ,2007, Kerala Kalamandalam Award in the year 2007, “Guru Sree” Award from Kaladarpan in the year 2008, Kalamandalam Krishnan Kutty Poduval Smaraka Award in the year 2009 and Dr. K.N.Pisharody Smaraka Award from K.N. Pisharody Smaraka Kathakali Club in the year 2010.
He also received international awards from Cleveland Bhairavi Finance Society – “Nritya Sagaram Award” US, 2015, First International Center for Kathakali Award, 2015 and a Gold Medal in the event, Mudralaya, from London in the year 1990.
Sri Balakrishnan has been awarded with two Senior Fellowships by Ministry of Culture, Government of India. His areas of research are to undertake a study of the aharya abhinaya—the stylized costumes and headgear—of Kathakali characters with reference to other dance drama styles of South India and to prepare a manual and syllabus for a new Kathakali style based on the three prevailing styles.
He also completed an advanced study and research on Northern Kathakali style with the financial assistance of Central ’’Sangeet Natak Akademi’’. He has written and published two books, Kathakali (as part of a series on the six classical Indian dances) published by Wisdom Tree and Kathakali: A Practitioner’s Perspective published by Poorna Publications.
Sri Balakrishnan has performed extensively in dance festivals in various cities all over India. Being a global performer, he has staged over, more than ten countries like France, Brazil, USA, Europe, Mexico, Colombia,Germany,Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, Holland, Croatia and Pakistan, in many prestigious International festivals all over the world.He feels that such dance festivals give an opportunity to a performer to prove his talent, where festival organizers also play a vital role in bringing the artists into the lime light. Sri Balakrishnan feels it a great honor to represent India through its great heritage and culture in other countries.
Sri Balakrishnan, who dedicates his life for the sacred art forms of India, a true lover of Indian art and culture, always had an uncontrollable urge to dance Kathakali Dance form. Artists like him, always give hope to the society in preserving the sustainability of Cultural India.