Remembering the Theatre Doyen: Kavalam Narayana Panicker cremated in his hometown in Kerala

Kavalam Narayana Panicker was greatly inspired by Sanskrit plays like Kalidasa, Shakuntalam on one hand and plays of William Shakespeare on the other

Kavalam Narayana Panicker. Image Source : Wikimedia Commons
  • Kavalam Narayana Panicker was an Indian playwright and poet
  • He was an activist in the days of Kerala theater movement
  • Panicker passed away last Sunday and the entire theater fraternity is mourning his death

An eminent dramatist, playwright, lyricist and poet of India, Kavalam Narayana Panicker was the theatre doyen of India.  He had been suffering from kidney-related problems for quite some time and breathed his last on Sunday, June 26, in his residence at Trivandrum.

This Malayalam theatre veteran was cremated with full state honours at his home town in Kavalam in Alappuzha district in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday, June 28.

Panicker was a master of his art and he knew how to portray folk tales to the audience in the best possible way. He had worked with the greatest stage actors and had been a favorite of all his co-workers. They recall that he had always been a sport and a lover of his art till the very end. It was his lively spirit that urged his actors and crew to do their best. “He was like a wheel that kept rolling despite his age. He was always young at heart,” director  Fazil told TOI.

Kavalam Narayana Panicker. Image source:
Kavalam Narayana Panicker. Image source:

His enthusiasm for theater had turned him into a dramatist from a lawyer. He is said to have 26 plays to his name, till date. He was greatly inspired by Sanskrit plays like Kalidasa, Shakuntalam on one hand and plays of William Shakespeare on the other. In fact he was planning on conducting a recreation of his play based on Abhigyanam Shakuntalam of Kalidasa, this year in 2016. Unfortunately, now his idea will never be able to see the light of the day.

Image Courtesy : Wikimedia Commons
Image Courtesy : Wikimedia Commons

While talking to TOI, Manju Warrier, an actor, who was trained by Panicker from the very beginning told, “I stepped into theater for the first time through his Shakunthalam, with his blessings. In those two weeks when I trained under him, I saw him transform into a legend. But even while he corrected my mistakes, it was with love, and I called him ‘grandpa’ in my mind. It was his greatest dream during his last days that Shakunthalam be recreated on stage.”

Panicker had been immensely active in the theater movement of Kerala as well. He, along with some of his contemporaries had started and strengthened the trend of indigenous plays and showcasing the folk culture of Kerala through them.

He wanted to direct and write more plays in Sanskrit because he opined that Sanskrit was essentially a part of ancient Indian culture, something very unique to India. Ignoring or neglecting Sanskrit would mean overlooking intricacies of one’s own culture. Besides, he did not perceive Sanskrit to be a difficult language, said the TOI report.

Panicker will be immensely missed not only by Kerala but also by every other theater enthusiast in India. This hollow in the heart of theater will never be fulfilled.

This report is compiled by a staff-writer at NewsGram.


  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Indeed a great man in the theatre genre! His plays were very famous during his times