Kavalam Narayana Panicker

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Kavalam Narayana Panicker
Kavalam Narayana Panicker
Born(1928-05-01)1 May 1928
Died26 June 2016(2016-06-26) (aged 88) [1]
OccupationPoet, playwright, theatre director, lyricist

Kavalam Narayana Panicker (1 May 1928 – 26 June 2016) was an Indian dramatist, theatre director, and poet. He has written over 26 Malayalam plays, many adapted from classical Sanskrit drama and Shakespeare, notably Kalidasa's Vikramorvasiyam (1981, 1996), Shakuntalam (1982), Bhasa's Madhyamavyayogam (1979), Karnabharam (1984, 2001), Uru Bhangam (1988), Swapnavasavadattam, and Dootavakyam (1996).[2][3] He was the founder – director of theatre troupe, Sopanam, which led to the foundation of Bhashabharati: Centre for Performing Arts, Training and Research, in Trivandrum.[4]

He was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for Direction in 1983 by Sangeet Natak Akademi, and its highest award for lifetime achievement, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship in 2002.[5] In 2007, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan in the field of Arts, by the Government of India. He died in his residence on 26 June 2016, aged 88, a few days after returning from the hospital.

Early life and education

Kavalam Narayana-Panicker

He was born in the village of Kavalam, into an ancient family from Kuttanad in Alappuzha, Kerala, India. His family name is Chalayil and he was a nephew of Sardar Kavalam Madhava Panikkar and a cousin of Dr. K. Ayyappa Panicker, a Malayalam poet.[6]

He attended CMS College in Kottayam, whose alumni included K. P. S. Menon and his uncle Sardar K. M. Panikkar. He obtained a degree in economics from Sanatana Dharma College (SD College), Alappuzha and later a Bachelor of Law degree from Madras Law College.


He started his career as a lawyer in 1955 and practised law for six years before devoting himself to art and literature. In 1961 he was nominated as Secretary of Kerala Sangeetha Nadaka Academy, Thrissur and shifted his base to Thrissur,[page needed] the cultural capital of Kerala. His work has always been rooted in both the classical and folk traditions of Kerala.

Kavalam Narayana Panicker

In 1974, Kavalam shifted his residence to the state capital Thiruvananthapuram. In this period his play Avanavan Kadamba was filmed by G. Aravindan. He has worked in many countries, including the former Soviet Union. In Greece he worked with Greek artists on a production of the Ilyayana, a fusion of the Indian Ramayana and the Greek epic Iliad.

He has directed two movies about the greatest Kutiyattam maestro legendary actor Guru Mani Madhava Chakyar: Mani Madhava Chakyar: The Master at Work (1994) and Parvati Viraham (1993) in Kuttiyattam form featuring Mani Madhava Chakyar as Ravana.[7] As a lyricist in Malayalam cinema, he has written for films like Ulsavapittennu, Manjadikuru (2008), Vadakakkoru Hridayam (1978) and Marmaram (1982). He won Kerala State Film Award for Best Lyrics for the latter two films.

In 1993 Erin B. Mee directed his play Ottayan in New York City. The Village Voice said: "the haunting pungency of a rich Asian folk-theatre tradition shines through every stylized gesture."[8]

Erin B. Mee devotes an entire chapter of her book Theatre of Roots to Panikkar's work.[9] His work is also the subject of the volume K.N. Panikkar: The Theatre of Rasa edited by Udayan Vajpeyi.[10] His play Aramba Chekkan is included in Drama Contemporary: India, edited by Erin B. Mee[11] and Erin B. Mee conducted an interview with him for PAJ magazine[12] and his work is the subject of an interview by Erin B. Mee in Seagull Theatre Quarterly: 1995 "The Use of Folk Philosophy in Kavalam Narayana Panikkar's Poetic Theatre of Transformation." Seagull Theatre Quarterly 7:58-62.

He has remained a consultant at Asianet Communications and vice-chairman for Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi.

Personal life

He was married and had two sons. He lived in Thiruvananthapuram with his wife Saradamani and also had another house in his native village of Kavalam. He had two sons — Kavalam Harikrishnan and Kavalam Sreekumar. Kavalam Harikrishnan served as BHASABHARATHI's Chief contact person before he died of cancer in October 2009. His younger son Kavalam Sreekumar, is a singer in Kerala.[13] Sreekumar sang folk and light music numbers over three decades. He also sang for Malayalam films over the years.[14]

Awards and recognition

Kavalam Narayana Panicker
Kavalam Narayana Panicker

He was awarded Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1983 and Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship in 2002 and the Padma Bhushan civilian decoration in 2007.[15]

He has won Kerala State Film Award for Best Lyrics twice, in 1978 for Vadakakkoru Hridayam and in 1982 for Marmaram, and the Kalidas Samman by the Government of Madhya Pradesh in (1994–1995).

  • 2013 – TTK Prestige-Vanitha Film Awards – Best Lyricist – Amen[16]

Best Male Singer


Kavalam Narayana Panicker suffered from age-related ailments in his later life. Although he was hospitalized many times for their treatment, he remained active in the social field. He died at his home on 26 June 2016.[citation needed]


  • The Right to rule (Kōyma) ; and, The domain of the sun (Sūryasthāna). Seagull Books, 1989. ISBN 81-7046-071-9.
  • Folklore of Kerala. National Book Trust, India, 1991.
  • Karimkutty ; and, The lone tusker. Seagull Books, 1991. ISBN 81-7046-092-1.


  1. ^ "Dramatist, poet Kavalam Narayana Panicker passes away". Malayala Manorama. 26 June 2016. Archived from the original on 29 June 2016. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  2. ^ Works of Kavalam Narayana Panicker Archived 1 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Face To Face: From law to theatre". The Hindu. 31 October 2004. Retrieved 5 April 2010.
  4. ^ Cody, p. 1035
  5. ^ "SNA: List of Akademi Awardees". Sangeet Natak Akademi Official website. Archived from the original on 17 February 2012.
  6. ^ Pratx, Philippe. "Kavalam Narayana Panikkar - Interview". indereunion.net.
  7. ^ "Films of Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 29 January 2008.
  8. ^ Faber, Roderick Mason, 7 July 1992. The Village Voice.
  9. ^ Mee, Erin B. 2008 Theatre of Roots: Redirecting the Modern Indian Stage. Seagull Books.
  10. ^ Vajpeyi, Udayan, ed. 2012. K.N. Panikkar: The Theatre of Rasa. Delhi: Nyogi Books.
  11. ^ Mee, Erin B. ed. 2001. Drama Contemporary:India. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press
  12. ^ Mee, Erin B. 1995. "Kavalam Narayana Panikkar: Meaning Into Action." PAJ #55.
  13. ^ Sarasijanayanan, Prasannakumaran. "Kavalam Sreekumar Hits, Devaragam on the web". devaragam.com.
  14. ^ Kavalam Srikumar on MSI
  15. ^ "Padma Bhushan for Nooyi, Mittal". ExpressIndia. 26 January 2007. Retrieved 26 May 2009.
  16. ^ "TTK Prestige-Vanitha Film Awards: Shobhana, Prithviraj win best actor, actress awards - Kerala9.com". kerala9.com.
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 13 December 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)


  • Mee, Erin B. 2008 Theatre of Roots: Redirecting the Modern Indian Stage. Seagull Books.
  • Mee, Erin B. 1995. "Kavalam Narayana Panikkar: Meaning Into Action." PAJ #55.
  • Mee, Erin B. 1995 "The Use of Folk Philosophy in Kavalam Narayana Panikkar's Poetic Theatre of Transformation." Seagull Theatre Quarterly 7:58-62.
  • Panikkar, K. N. "Aramba Chekkan" In Mee, Erin B. ed. 2001. DramaContemporary:India. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Cody, Gabrielle H.; Evert Sprinchorn (2007). The Columbia encyclopedia of modern drama, Volume 2. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-14424-7.
  • Kavalam Narayana Panicker at IMDb

External links