D. Appukuttan Nair (1924-94)
An outstanding theatre personality devoted to the revival of traditional purity in the much treasured art forms of Kathakali and Kutiyattom. He showed the way to sustain perennial interest in these art forms by recourse to innovation through poetic treatment and explored new dimensions in the aesthetics of the art forms. With this objective he penned supplementary choreography to important plays like Nalacharitham, Banayudham etc. His monumental contribution to Kutiyattom was the founding of Margi Kutiyattom centre in Thiruvananthapuram along with the maestro Ammannur Madhava Chakyar and revived the centuries-old art from retaining its traditional repertoire which had almost disappeared from the stage by then. A specialist engineer by profession, he built two Koothambalams; one at Kerala Kalamandalam, Thrissur and the other at Kalakshethra in Chennai. He was also a member of the executive committee of Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi and an advisor to the Government of Kerala on cultural affairs.
Mankulam Vishnu Namboodiri (1900-1981)
A gifted performer, Mankulam Vishnu Namboodiri can well be described as the doyen of the southern style of Kathakali. The Samastha Kerala Kathakali Vidyalayam, established by Vishnu Namboodiri in 1960 achieved great strides in reviving the southern style of Kathakali. A great guru with a large following, his disciples include Vellampadi Neelakandan Namboothiri, Pandalam Kerala Varma, Chirakkara Madhavankutty, Inchakkattu Ramachandran Pillai and Chavara Parukkutty. Namboodiri who dominated the Kathakali stage for long was best known for his unique style of portrayal of the role of Lord Sri Krishna. He was the first Guru of Kathakali at Margi.
Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair (1920-1990)
An exemplary master and performer in the northern style of Kathakali. This legendary actor was the first Kathakali actor to win Padmashree, the prestigious honour instituted by the Government of India. There has been no dearth of awards and honours for this maestro and he was also a recipient of the Central and State Sangeet Natak Akademi awards and Emeritus fellowship from the Union Ministry of Culture. His facial expressions are considered as the best ever in the history of Kathakali. He was a visiting professor at Margi from 1980-1990.
Oyoor Kochugovinda Pillai (1918-2008)
A leading Kathakali actor of the southern style, Mr. Govinda Pillai was initiated into the world of Kathakali at the tender age of nine by his uncle Chathannoor Velu Pillai. His portrayal of the character Hamsa (the Swan) in Nalacharitha was simply exemplary and no wonder that he is the only actor to perform Hamsa in the highest number of stages after his Guru Kurichi Kunjan Paniker. An excellent teacher, Mr. Govinda Pillai’s disciples include known performers like Kalamandalam Ramchandran and Kalamandalam Ratheeshan. Many honours came his way including the Kerala Kalamandalam Award and Sangeet Natak Akademi award. He was a visiting professor at Margi.
A great Kathakali singer and teacher, Mr. Kalamandalam Gangadharan is the first Kathakali vocalist to be honoured by the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi award. A student of the Kerala Kalamandalam, Mr. Gangadharan later got the rare honour to teach Kathakali Music at his alma mater. His unique tenor and accent has earned him a large fan base. Creativity and experimentation keeping up the traditional purity of the Kathakali music is what differentiates this master. He has served as a visiting professor at Margi.
Ammannur Madhava Chakyar (1917-2008)
One among the trinity of Kutiyattom masters (the others being Mani Madhava Chakyar and Painkulam Rama Chakyar), Mr. Ammannur Madhava Chakyar is the greatest living exponent of this art form. He is a recipient of the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan honours instituted by the Government of India. It was Guru Ammannur Madhava Chakyar who was selected to receive the UNESCO citation proclaiming Kutiyattom as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”. He was the first Guru at Margi Kutiyattom centre and has also served as a visiting professor here.
He is credited with reviving several sections of Kutiyattom which was disappearing from the stage. Perhaps his greatest contribution to Kutiyattam is creating a true set of followers for the waning art form. And the new generation performers lucky enough to get his guidance include Margi Madhu, Margi Narayanan, Margi Raman, Margi Sathi and Margi Usha.
Guru P.K. Narayanan Nambiar
Son of the late Padma Shri Mani Madhava Chakyar, Guru P.K. Narayanan Nambiar is perhaps the greatest Mizhavu player in the recent times. He is also a great scholar in dramaturgy. He has served as a visiting professor at Margi during which he actively participated in the revival of the oral sections of Kutiyattom like Manthrangam, Mathavilasam and Nagiarkoothu.