Remembering C.Okay. Balagopalan, well-known for his function because the monkey god, on his first demise anniversary
It’s one yr because the Kalakshetra legend, ‘Hanuman’ Balagopalan, handed away on August 24, 2019, a couple of days earlier than his eightieth 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.
Performing 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 lecturers. Balagopalan’s father was referred to as Malabar Charlie Chaplin due to his comedian roles. So each of us had frequent grounding and related upbringing. Because of 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 courses, 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 relied on 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 courses to play with the Besant Faculty college students. I might drag him again from the playground to avoid wasting him from being pulled up by the lecturers, 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 the direction of him together with his charming pranks. Certainly, he was nicknamed ‘Krishna.’ And as luck would have it, he was later solid as Krishna in Rukmini Devi’s ‘Gita Govindam’. He lived the half totally, with Shanta as his beloved Radha. The pair stole the hearts of the viewers.
Balagopalan had an incredible stage presence regardless of his quick stature. He may make himself seem tall together with his extraordinary histrionic capacity. Rukmini Devi had an incredible eye for casting, at all times selecting the correct particular person 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 Seventies 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 embrace 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, in addition to a number of different minor roles.
He uniformly excelled in all these roles, however he immortalised the character of Hanuman and started 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 deliver 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 attainable 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, through which 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 high quality Bhartanatyam dancer, who gained the very best 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 beneath 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 known as him, will at all times be remembered by dance connoisseurs.
The writer is a veteran Bharatanatyam dancer, choreographer and guru.