When Rugmini begins to fan the esteemed guest in the palace, Kuchela objects politely. “I’ve come just to see your husband Krishna, my childhood friend,” says the poor man. And, as the blue-hued god dances, Kuchela gestures, “Meeting him has driven away my fatigue.”
When the famed Vishnu temple in Tiruvalla in south-central Kerala hosted a Kathakali night on October 1, 2020, after the seven-month lockdown, Mathoor Govindankutty played the key role of Kuchelan. He had turned 80 just the week before.
Mathoor Govindan Kutty
As festivities slowly resumed, the veteran began to get many such invitations to perform. And when he danced as Kunti in mid-January at Mynagappally near Kollam, it turned out to be his swansong.
Mathoor Govindankutty as Kunti
Govindankutty was born into an affluent family known for its cultural lineage. Many members of the Mathoor household in the paddy belt of Kuttanad, of what is now Alappuzha district, were experts in the Velakali war dance. In the 18th century, the founder of the family, Mathoor Panicker headed the army of king Devanarayana of Chembakassery. The Mathoor family owned a Kaliyogam that had Kathakali paraphernalia, artistes, masters and classes in Nedumudi village.