Sangeet Natak Akademi’s “Tagore Adademi Puraskar” for Raghavan Nambiar
G. S. Paul
K.M. Raghavan Nambiar, the septuagenarian protagonist of the people’s theatre movement in Malabar, has been selected for the ‘Tagore Akademi Puraskar’ of the Sangeet Natak Akademi.
Jubilation was widespread across North Kerala when the list of awardees of the ‘Tagore Akademi Puraskar’ of the Sangeet Natak Akademi was announced recently. For, the lone recipient of this prestigious award (declared for the first time in the history of the Akademi) in theatre from Kerala was K. M. Raghavan Nambiar, the septuagenarian protagonist of the people’s theatre movement in Malabar. As people belonging to all walks of life made a beeline for his residence at Kalyassery, Kannur, to felicitate him, the soft spoken KMR, as he is generally addressed by theatre buffs, said, “I consider this as recognition of the efficacy of theatre language for social criticism.”
Theatre for education
True, for the past five decades and more, Nambiar, a professionally trained teacher and an education officer, had anchored on theatre as a potent tool for educating people about social, political and cultural evils that continued to plague society in the post-Independence era. In this attempt, he had donned myriad roles of an actor, playwright, director, lyricist and, above all, an efficient organiser.
It may be remembered that the movement of ‘Kala samitis’ in Kerala had its origin in Malabar during the fifties, before it spread to other parts of Kerala. While this had a significant role in transforming the society, it had also helped in nurturing the innate artistic talents of youth. The entire Malabar area hummed with theatre activities that had its roots mainly in the villages. The movement was so effective that the general council of the Kerala Sangeeta Nataka Akademi used to be constituted by the elected representatives of the samitis from the 14 districts of the State. Activities in the Kannur district were specially noteworthy as it had the highest number of such samitis. The entire credit for organising these went to KMR.
KMR entered the theatre world actively in 1957 by staging Edassery’s ‘Puthan Kaalavum Arivalum.’ A poetic sensibility was strong in him during his early years. In the competition of patriotic songs conducted by All India Radio, his work was adjudged the best. Perhaps, it was this talent that made him a lyricist for several plays.
He also proved his worth as an actor during the incipient stages of his theatre activity. He played lead roles in his own plays such as ‘Chitha Pushpam,’ ‘Kalameni,’ ‘Ushasandhya’ and ‘Vajramushti,’ to mention a few. How far he was known as an acclaimed actor was evident from the way in which writer Uroob once introduced him to K.P. Kesava Menon at a meeting at the Kerala Sahithya Akademi. Uroob reportedly told Menon: “Meet a very good actor.”
Playwright , academician
KMR was a prolific playwright. More than seven score of his plays stand testimony to this. Worth mentioning among them are ‘Velichcham,’ ‘Chitha Pushpam,’ ‘Vajramushti,’ ‘Rajasooyam,’ ‘Usha Sandhya,’ ‘Ardhasasthram,’ ‘Patachatta,’ ‘Pakarnattam,’ ‘Thandavam,’ ‘Prajapathy,’ and ‘Kaalakoodam.’
He has to his credit 35 one-act plays and 40 radio plays. ‘Swathanthryam Thanne Jeevitham’ is a trilogy written against the backdrop of the history of pre-Independent India. The surreptitious means of colonialism to exploit the people of India receive a graphic picture in the three plays – ‘Karmabhoomi,’ ‘Ram Muhammed Singh Aasaad,’ and ‘Adhiniveshathinte Asura Vazhikal.’ The book that fetched him the Kerala Sahithya Akademi award in 2010 is ‘Aranginte Samara Bhasha,’ an analytical study of evolution of theatre in Kerala and its contemporary status.
The Universities of Kerala, Calicut and Kannur included his plays ‘Rajasooyam,’ ‘Sanjeevani’ and ‘Adhiniveshathinte Asuravazhikal’ in the curriculum for undergraduate students. ‘Oru Pooviriyunnu,’ telecast by Doordarshan, was among his few works for the small screen.
KMR’s skill in art administration was proved during his stint in the Kerala Sangeeta Nataka Akademi. Numerous are the seminars, workshops and festivals of theatre for which he had given leadership during his tenure. Perhaps the last among them was the International Theatre Festival of Kerala (ITFoK) that was initiated by the late Bharath Murali. Keli
Apart from the Kerala Sahithya Akademi awards twice, he has been honoured by the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi for his overall contribution to theatre. At 77, KMR is busy with his script for the new play, ‘Enthinu Bharathadhaare Karayunnu.’ Also, a radio play is on the anvil for the coming festival of All India Radio.