Natanakairali was founded in 1975 by G. Venu with the idea of reviving and rejuvenating traditional art forms of Kerala that were on the verge of decline.

A focal point of many artistic activities based at Irinjalakuda, Natanakairali has made immense contributions to the growth and development of diverse art forms of Kerala. Training programmes, workshops, seminars and festivals hosted by the centre have helped to bring out the relevance of art forms like Kutiyattam, Nangiar Koothu, Pavakathakali, Mohiniyattam, Kakkarissi Natakam, Tolpavakoothu, Noolpavakoothu, Mudiyettu, Padayani, Kummattikali and Tiruvaathirakkali.

Under the guidance of its founder-chairman G.Venu and Nirmala Paniker (founder-director, Natanakaisiki Mohiniyatta Gurukulam), Natanakairali has become an internationally renowned centre for performing arts, upholding uncompromising standards of performance based on a rigorous training system.

At present Natanakairali’s main activities are:

  • Abhinayakkalari – Performers’ Studio for Kutiyattam
  • Natanakaisiki Mohiniyatta Gurukulam – Training and Research Centre for Mohiniyattam and Other Female Performance Traditions of Kerala
  • Pavakathakali Kalari – Training Centre and Performing Group of Pavakathakali
  • Panippura – Studio for Folk and Ritual Artforms
  • Research and Publication

Our Mission 

  • To revive and rejuvenate traditional classical, folk and ritual art forms of Kerala
  • To ensure that a talented young generation gets trained in each of the forms
  • To help artists and practitioners create sustainable livelihoods
  • To sensitize the general public towards aesthetic, cultural and spiritual values of various traditional arts and knowledge systems
  • To be a platform for practicing artistes to meet, engage with and indulge in performance work
  • To work on revival of lost and forgotten repertoire and addition of new works traversing unexplored themes/areas for performance

Our Approach

“When we speak of revival we do not mean merely a return to old forms. We do not look at them as museum pieces or fossils to be salvaged from the past. We want to retrieve the life that was once glowing brilliantly in each of the art forms. It is the inspiring presence of this vitality that will energize us to create new forms which will enhance the rationale and the relevance of the old” – G Venu on Natanakairali, 1984.

The Journey So Far

It was in 1975 that a young man, saddened with the fast disappearance of Kerala’s rich performing traditions and pained by the memories of artists living only in shrouded childhood memories, initiated a fervent struggle. Natanakairali Research, Training and Performing Centre for Traditional Arts was founded by G. Venu with the aim of rescuing certain art forms of Kerala from extinction. Efforts had to begin from scratches for many art forms. All financial and human resources had to be gathered and channelised imaginatively.

Gradually, the following art forms were pulled out of the verge of extinction and put back to their rightful space of glory – Kutiyattam, Nangiar Koothu, Pavakathakali, Tolpavakoothu, Noolpavakoothu, Mudiyettu, Padayani, Kummattikali, Thiruvathirakkali and Kakkarissi Natakam.

As a vital step in the process, the Ammannur Chachu Chakyar Smaraka Gurukulam (training centre for Kutiyattam) was founded for ensuring the continued training, recognition and promotion of the classical Sanskrit theatre form Kutiyattam. Efforts towards a fuller, enriched vision of Mohiniyattam are also being undertaken. Natanakairali, thus exemplifies a high achievement level through singularity of purpose and concentrated effort.

Any rescue mission at Natanakairali is preceded by an extensive research programme. This covers an intense study of all the available resource material, however scant it is. Comparative studies are also delved into. Gurus or other exponents who have faded out of public memory are sought out and persuaded/helped into becoming a part of this process. It is only after such painstaking research work that the process of actual revival commences.

This unusually strong emphasis on research has helped Natanakairali establish a publication wing, which has till date released several books and many magazine articles in India and abroad. This wing has contributed towards documenting and spreading general awareness about the long-standing traditional art-forms of Kerala.

The centre also conducts regular workshops which provide an unparalleled impetus for the exchange of ideas on different planes. The results of these well-represented workshops are circulated among the general public.

At Natanakairali, both the performing aspect and the academic aspect are equally accentuated. The rigorous training and the subsequent performances arranged by the centre have helped some of these art forms to achieve international recognition.


Natanakairali is a non-profit, registered society registered in 1983 under the Travancore/Cochin Literary, Scientific and Charitable Societies Registration Act of No:12 of 1955 governed by an Executive Board. The Board is elected from among the General Body, constituting all members of the organization, for a period of three years. All important policy decisions have to be approved by the Executive Board, if necessary after consulting and/or getting the approval of the General Body.

The Executive Board is supported by an Executive Director, Chairman, Vice-Chairperson and Treasurer who are appointed by the Board. They look after the day-to-day affairs of the organization together with a dedicated office staff.


Natanakairali is financed via grants and donations.

A comprehensive audit and review of the organization’s functioning is undertaken every year by Unnikrishnan and Co., Chartered Accounts, Irinjalakuda( M No.216003).Natanakairali follows the Indian financial year, which runs from 1 April to 31 March. The annual narrative report and the annual audited statements get the approval of the General Body.

Natanakairiali is grateful for financial and moral support received since its inception from a range of prominent organizations, trusts and individuals. This support has helped our various activities including training programmes, productions, research, festivals, workshops, seminars, publications, temporary rehersal spaces, purchase of instruments and equipment and commissioning of costumes and puppets.

Our Supporters for various projects include:

  • Department of Culture, Govt of India
  • Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi
  • Indira Gandhi National Centre For Arts (IGNCA), New Delhi
  • Eberhard and Barbara Fischer
  • Peter Oskarson and Anna Thelin, The World Theatre Project, Sweden
  • Folkteatern Gavleborg, Sweden
  • Premlata Puri, Sanskriti Pravah, New Delhi
  • The Japan Foundation Asia Centre
  • Teater Sagohuset, Sweden
  • Ludwig Pesch, Holland
  • Elena Probst, The Share Foundation, Portugal