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Remembering C.Okay. Balagopalan, well-known for his function because the monkey god, on his first loss of life anniversary
It’s one yr because the Kalakshetra legend, ‘Hanuman’ Balagopalan, handed away on August 24, 2019, a couple of days earlier than his 80th birthday (September 4). His departure created a sudden vacuum in our lives. We each walked into Kalakshetra within the Adyar Theosophical Society campus on the identical day — October 5, 1953, and we had been initiated into Bharatanatyam and Kathakali by Rukmini Devi Arundale and Asan T.Okay. Chanduppanikkar on October 7 on Vijayadasami day that yr.
For each of us, dance was an alien artwork, aside from having watched a couple of Kathakali performances in our birthplaces — Cheruvattur and Payyanur, respectively, two distant villages within the Kannur district of northern Kerala, then referred to as Malabar.
Appearing in performs
Each of us had a short expertise of performing in stage performs with our fathers, who had been part-time dramatists and elementary faculty academics. Balagopalan’s father was referred to as Malabar Charlie Chaplin due to his comedian roles. So each of us had widespread grounding and comparable upbringing. Due to Rukmini amma, we got full scholarship with free coaching, boarding and lodging.
Once I look again and consider these 17 years that we spent collectively, residing within the hostel and attending lessons, I realise there was by no means any discord or skilled jealousy between us.
Although we had been of the identical age, Balagopalan handled me as an older brother, and I ensured that I used to be at all times there for him. Initially, he was not a really severe boy, being somewhat naughty and playful, in contrast to me. I needed to information him all through our time at Kalakshetra. He trusted me to assist him revise all the teachings and to make him practise and be ready earlier than we entered the subsequent day’s class. Generally, he escaped from Kathakali or Bharatanatyam lessons to play with the Besant Faculty college students. I might drag him again from the playground to save lots of him from being pulled up by the academics, particularly Asan Chanduppanikkar, a strict instructor who didn’t spare the rod.
Nevertheless, Balagopalan was the darling of the hostel inmates. Like Lord Krishna, he had the knack of drawing all of the girls and boys in direction of him together with his charming pranks. Certainly, he was nicknamed ‘Krishna.’ And as luck would have it, he was later forged as Krishna in Rukmini Devi’s ‘Gita Govindam’. He lived the half absolutely, with Shanta as his beloved Radha. The pair stole the hearts of the viewers.
Balagopalan had a tremendous stage presence regardless of his quick stature. He might make himself seem tall together with his extraordinary histrionic capacity. Rukmini Devi had a tremendous eye for casting, at all times selecting the correct individual to play a personality. Balagopalan, a born artiste, performed many profitable roles and gave memorable performances.
Balagopalan had a short stint away from Kalakshetra within the early 1970s when he took up a job with SIFAS in Singapore, however when he returned, he was reinstated with none questions being requested about why he had left the establishment with out informing Rukmini Devi. His participation was very valued within the establishment’s productions.
The characters he performed in Kalakshetra dance dramas embody Lakshmana and Viswamitra in Sitaswayamvaram (I performed Rama), Bharata in Padukaapattabhishekam, Ravana sanyasi in Sabarimoksham, Hanuman in Sethubandhanam and Sri Rama Pattabhishekam, Kannappar in Kannapparkuravanji, Krishna in Gita Govindam, Rukminiswayamvaram and Ushaparinayam and Vidushaka in Shakunthalam, moreover a number of different minor roles.
He uniformly excelled in all these roles, however he immortalised the character of Hanuman and commenced to be known as ‘Hanuman’ Balagopalan.
I left Kalakshetra in 1968 and established Bharata Kalanjali. Balagopalan was a continuing customer, maintaining our friendship intact. In later years, each time he visited Shanta and me, he would convey us goodies he had made and fruits from his backyard. He was eager that we carry out collectively once more in a manufacturing. As luck would have it, Apsaras Arts in Singapore made it potential by inviting us to be a part of their mega manufacturing Aanjaneyam in 2018. Balagopalan was ecstatic and saved saying, ‘Hanuman has answered by prayers.’ Aanjaneyam depicted the assembly of Valmiki and Hanuman within the Himalayas, wherein I performed Valmiki. His final want had been fulfilled. Not many individuals have such a fulfilled life and simple departure in, because the scriptures say, an ‘anayasena maranam.’
Carrying on his legacy
His legacy is being carried ahead by daughter Prithvija, a nice Bhartanatyam dancer, who received the perfect dancer award from The Music Academy. She is now a Kalakshetra employees and member of the Sahrdaya Basis, headed by Sheejith Krishna, who’s mentoring her. Balagopalan at all times wished to be a movie actor like Sivaji Ganesan, whom he usually imitated. Now, his daughter has acted in some Tamil serials and in a Malayalam film, Shyamaragam, the place she performed a Bharatanatyam dancer.
Our contemporaries in Kalakshetra then included Krishnaveni Lakshmanan, the late Vijayalakshmi, Prof. A. Janardhanan, M.R. Krishnamurthy (Bengaluru), Kala Ramesh Rao, Ambika Buch, Savitri Jagannatha Rao and the late Narasimhachari. And all of us had the privilege of coaching underneath stalwarts like Sarada Hoffman, S. Sarada, Prof. N.S. Jayalakshmi and Okay.P. Kunhiraman, who assisted Asan Chanduppanikkar. Rukmini Devi’s finest creations occurred throughout these days. After retiring from Kalakshetra, Balagopalan continued to take part within the productions. Final yr, he was busy practising for Kumarasambhavam that was being revived for the Artwork Competition. A biography of Balagopalan, titled Leap of Religion, has been written by certainly one of his disciples, Eliza Louis. ‘Balan Anna’, as the scholars referred to as him, will at all times be remembered by dance connoisseurs.
The creator is a veteran Bharatanatyam dancer, choreographer and guru.