Kathakali the supreme art form of Kerala has always had followers and gurus whose devotion and passion for this art helped to sustain it during the trials of time. Madavoor Vasudevan Nair, a veteran in the field of Kathakali and follower of the Kaplingattu School, the pristine style of south Kerala, is one of those aficionados who dedicated his entire life to this wonderful art form.
Born on 7th April 1929 in the district of Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, Vasudevan Nair's family was deeply rooted in the soil of arts. His father Rama Kurup was a folk dancer well versed in Kambadikkali and Kuthiyottam. Vasudevan Nair started learning Kathakali at the age of thirteen. Madavoor Parameswaran Pillai was his first teacher in Kathakali. He then joined the Kathakali Kalari started by Kurichi Kunjan Panicker for one year. Straight from the Kalari of Kunjan Panicker, at the age of seventeen, he went to become the disciple of Padmasree Chengannur Raman Pillai, the one and only veteran teacher in Kaplingattu style. He spent eleven years in the Gurukulam and mastered the various shades and nuances of Kathakali.
For nine years from 1968 he was a faculty in the Thekkan Kalari (Southern school of Kathakali) of Kerala Kalamandalam. Later he became the principal of Kalabharathi, another performing art institute, in Pakalkkuri near Kottarakkara.
His expertise is in Kathi, Pacha, Vellathadi and Minukku characters. Following the path of his great guru, Vasudevan Nair concentrated more in anti-hero Kathi roles like Ravanan, Duryodhanan, Keechakan, Jarasandhan, Banan, Kamsan, Hiranyakasipu and Narakasuran. Besides he plays other puranic characters like Hanuman, Hamsam, Kaattalan and Minukku roles like Brahmanan and Mannaan.Vasudevan Nair had the fortune to play Kathakali in very many places all around India and in foreign countries. These marvelous performances brought him scores of acclaims and awards including the Thulaseevanam Award, Alappuzha Kathakali Club Award, Keraleeya Kalakshetra Award, Guru Chengannur Memorial Award, Kerala Kalamandalam Award, Thapasya Abhinandana Pathram, Sangeetha Nataka Akademi Award and many more. In 2011 the Government of India has honoured this great artist with the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award in the Republic of India.