The Core Team
Gopal Venu is a performer, teacher and scholar of Kutiyattam and a senior disciple of Guru Ammannur Madhava Chakyar. He is also the founder of Natanakairali (Research and Performing Centre for Traditional Arts) and the Kulapathy of Ammannur Chachu Chakyar Smaraka Gurukulam (Training Centre for Kutiyattam). His major contributions are the adaptations of Mahakavi Kalidasa’s plays Abhijnana Sakuntalam and Vikramorvaseeyam and Bhasa’s play Urubhangam for Kutiyattam. He has to his credit 15 books on the performing arts of Kerala, including Production of a Play in Kutiyattam (1989), Into the World of Kutiyattam, Kathakali, Kutiyattam and other Performing Arts (2005) and Language of Kathakali.
G.Venu has also worked for the revival of Kerala Puppetry forms including Pavakathakali and Tolpavakoothu. He has done extensive research to reinstate the glory of Pavakathakali as one of the foremost puppet theatres in India. He has also participated in several National and International seminars and discussions on puppetry. He has written several articles and monographs on puppetry which include Puppetry and Lesser Known Dance Traditions of Kerala (1990) and Tolpavakoothu (1990).
Venu is also a visiting Master Teacher of Kutiyattam at the National School of Drama in Delhi as well as ITI – Inter-cultural Theatre Institute in Singapore. Venu has been selected for several honours and awards, which include Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award, Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi Award, Kerala Kalamandalam (Deemed University for Arts and Culture) Award, Painkulam Rama Chakyar Smaraka Puraskaram (2009) and the prestigious Nikkei Asia Prize for Culture (Japan), 2007.
Nirmala Paniker – Founder Member and Director, Natanakaisiki Mohiniyatta Gurukulam
Nirmala Paniker is a well known teacher, researcher and choreographer of Mohiniyattam, the classical dance form of Kerala. She is a disciple of Guru Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma and has also been trained at the RLV School of Music, Dance and Fine Arts, Thripunithura. She has authored several books on Mohiniyattam and other female performing traditions of Kerala. Her publications include Nangiar Koothu, Mohiniyattam – The Lasya Dance and Hand Gestures of Hasthalakakshanadeepika in Mohiniyattam, Mohiniyattam – Attaprakaravum Mudrakalum
(Malayalam, co-authored with G.Venu). Her major contributions include the revival of the lost dance (Desi) traditions of Mohiniyattam including Poli, Easal, Chandanam, Kurathi and Mookkuthi. Apart from these she has several other new choreographies to her credit. She has received several awards including Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi Award – 2003 and Krishnankutty Smaraka Award – 2002 for her contributions. She is the founder-director of Natanakaisiki Mohiniyatta Gurukulam – Research and Training Centre for Mohiniyattam dance where she trains her students. She also travels widely giving workshops and classes including in Mexico and Japan.
Kapila Venu – Executive Director and Performing Artiste
Kapila Venu is a devoted practitioner of Kutiyattam with a keen interest in the study and revival of varied folk and ritual artforms of Kerala. She is a disciple of the legendary Kutiyattam maestro Guru Ammannur Madhava Chakyar and daughter of Kutiyattam exponent G.Venu and Mohiniyattam exponent Nirmala Paniker. She has been performing Kutiyattam both as a solo performer and together with the ensemble at Natanakairali and Ammannur Gurukulam all over her home state Kerala, all over India and in several prestigious international venues including Dance Hakushu , Japan and Asia Society, New York. Her repertoire is replete with both traditional performances and new experiments. Kapila has also worked over several years under the guidance of renowned Japanese farmer/dancer Min Tanaka in Japan. She is presently the Director of Natanakairali – Research and Performing Centre for Traditional Arts. She is a visiting faculty at National School of Drama, New Delhi and Intercultural Theatre Institute, Singapore. Kapila has received the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar and the Sanskriti Award among others.