Date:23/09/2005 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/fr/2005/09/23/stories/2005092300760300.htm
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A true artiste

VINU VASUDEVAN

Venmani Haridas' invaluable contributions to Kathakali music made him an icon in his field.



IMMORTAL VOICE: Venmani Haridas.

An era in Kathakali music comes to an end with the demise of Venmani Haridas. He was a trailblazer and chief exponent of a new style in Kathakali music.

Born and brought up in an ambience of music and art, Haridas was influenced by the music of his mother, Devasena Antharjanam. His proximity to Kavur Mana, which was then a haven for Kathakali artistes, also helped in honing the innate talent in Haridas.

In 1960, at the age of 14, he joined Kerala Kalamandalam. Under the guidance of renowned musicians such as Neelakandan Nambeesan and Sivaraman Nair, Haridas began his lifelong journey into the world of music. It was Kalamandalam Gangadharan who discovered the potential of the youngster.

After he completed his studies in Kalamandalam, he joined Darpana, an academy for performing artists that was run by Mrinalini Sarabhai, in Ahmedabad. He was exposed to a wide variety of music and dance forms at Darpana, including `Rabindra Sangeet.' After 10 years, he left Darpana and returned to Kerala.

It was a period of struggle for Haridas as he had to start from scratch to make a name for himself. This was a period of transition in the presentation of Kathakali music. The rendition became more emotional and melodious. Along with Sankaran Embranthiri and Hyderali, Haridas too became a part of this revolution.

With his gifted voice and melodious rendering, Haridas elevated the whole art form to new heights of creativity and excellence. Without changing the basic rules of rendition, he brought in a new professionalism and quality to his art form. The purity and evocative nature of his music won him a number of admirers.

A singer's place in Kathakali

Haridas knew that it was through the voice of a singer that a Kathakali artiste cries, laughs, loves, and hates on stage. So, a singer had to convey the bhava for an actor. Venmani Haridas also acted in Shaji N. Karun's film `Vanaprastham.'

However, despite his talent, Haridas was never given his due by the Government. In 2003, Kalamandalam felicitated him with an award. This simple and soft-spoken man's last performance was at Guruvayoor in August 2004.

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