Many art forms in Kerala have renowned names associated with it; from yester years and in the contemporary scenario. Among the contemporary masters in Kutiyattam - the 2500-year-old Sanskrit theatre of Kerala - the name of Sivan Namboodiri stands out.
An accomplished performer and a teacher of repute at the Kerala Kalamandalam deemed University for Art and Culture, Sivan Namboodiri entered the domain of Kutiyattam with objectives that were guided by the vision and thoughts of his teachers and his personal pursuit for excellence. The art form as such requires tremendous amount of dedication and attention to details. And Sivan Namboodiri backed himself up to rise up to the demands of Kutiyattam. His determination and an all-encompassing love for the art form transformed him into one of the respected names in Kutiyattam.
Born in 1950 as the son of Ammankotu Manakkal Madhavan Namboodiri and Devaki Antharjanam, he got attracted to Kathakali at the age of 14. Years later, armed with a domineering passion to learn Kathakali under the leading maestros, he ventured to do a course in the art form at the Kerala Kalamandalam. But fate had other plans for him. Sivan Namboodiri was granted the opportunity to learn Kutiyattam under the distinguished guidance of Paimkulam Rama Chakyar, a stalwart in Kutiyattam.
Sivan Namboodiri joined the Kerala Kalamandalam in 1965 for a six-year diploma course as one of the two students of the first batch of Kutiyattam. He is the first person outside the Chakiar community to learn Kutiyattam. Being a strict non-conformist by nature like his mentor Paimkulam Rama Chakiar, he ventured into the domain of Kutiyattam with sheer determination to learn this ancient theatre form that was hitherto performed only by the members of the Chakiar community.
After completing his six-year diploma course, Sivan Namboodiri went on to do a post-graduate diploma in Kutiyattam for two years, followed by an advanced course with scholarship under the Department of Culture, New Delhi. It took him ten long years of intense training and perseverance to become a well-acknowledged, master practitioner of the art form.
Sivan Namboodiri has also made his glorious presence felt in the stage of Nangiarkoothu; the two-thousand-year old art form, till then dominated by the Nangiars or the women folk of the Nambiar community in Kerala. In addition to being the first ever male performer of Nangiarkoothu, he is also credited for introducing certain innovations regarding the use of costumes and musical instruments in this age-old art form.
In 1975, Sivan Namboodiri joined the Kerala Kalamandalam - deemed University for Art and Culture as a faculty of Kutiyattam. After retiring from Kerala Kalamandalam, he still continues his association with this premiere centre for learning performing art forms as its visiting professor. In January 2012, the nation honoured this outstanding artiste of Kutiyattam with Padmasree.