THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: “Kathakali devoid of chenda is like an ocean devoid of waves,” late Kalamandalam Krishnankutty Poduval, a self-taught maestro of kathakali percussion, had said. Belonging to the temple-caste family of percussionists, Poduval learnt the basics of chenda and edakka from his uncle Govinda Poduval. Later he joined Kerala Kalamandalam and continued his studies under gurus Appu Marar, Moothamana Namboodiri and Venkicchan Swamy.
One of the idiosyncratic achievements he has ever obtained was the holistic understanding of kathakali which helped him integrate music to every visual note. His famous scripted-directed kathakali plays are Bhishmaprathignya, Amba, Snapakacharitham, and he also recreated Ashtapadiyattom dance drama. He didn’t limit himself to music but also enacted roles himself beside writing several kathakali plays. His aesthetically mounted innovations enriched kathakali without duping it of its classical purity. He was able to ingrain turmoil, doubt, anguish, joy and all other feelings/expressions in the kathakali play and translated into music through his chenda.
While remembering him on his 26th death anniversary week, his son Rajan Poduval shared one of his most treasured memories of his father to Express, “He loved enacting Bali in Balivadham. Once he had enacted the role of Bali in the play ‘Baalivadham’ in an attempt to save the character from its clichéd action ‘Bheeshmaprathijna’ (Bhishma’s Pledge), which was written by him and is known for its theatrical panache. His art was like the thunderstorm that accompanies the monsoon sky of Kerala. He was able to imitate sounds of almost everything in any velocity or decibel. Whether it is a deer frolicking around, bee humming or lions roaring, he did it all with ease and perfection.”
For Poduval, the art meant more than personal comforts and he always stood up to his independence in spirit until his last breath. The eventful life he led and the rich memories he has left behind are a motivation to young artists and art lovers.