Acclaimed Ottanthulal artist Kalamandalam Geethanandan died on Sunday around 8 pm while performing at Avittathur Mahavishnu Temple in Kerala.
The 58-year-old was performing in Irinjalakuda in Thrissur, when collapsed on the stage and died during a stage performance.
Geethanandan, who performed on more than 5,000 stages across the country, was also a tutor of Ottanthullal at Kerala Kalamandalam for decades.
According to the media reports, he was rushed to the hospital soon after he collapsed, but could not be saved.
Geethanandan has also done several films in Malayalam. He made his debut in the industry with the film Kamaladalam. Later he also appeared in other films like Thooval Kottaram, Manasinakkare, Narendran Magan Jayakanthan Vaga, Irattakuttikalude Achan etc
He is survived by his wife Shobana and children Sanalkumar and Sreelakshmi, who are also Thullal artists.
“Geethanandan has played a major role in popularising thullal. At present, many students are coming forward to learn thullal. However, very few will continue with that passion, trying to popularise the art form. We are having only a few great names in contemporary scenario, who can be pointed out as the experts in thullal. Geethanandan was one such master and his demise is a great loss to the art,” said Madhu, a student.
He later joined the institution as a teacher for thullal and went on to become the head of the department. He is also the first artist to perform thullal at Paris in 1984.
He won Veerasringala and Thullal Kalanidhi award, later in his career. He was also the first artist to craft a thullalpadha kacheri, a musical depiction of thullal art form, report added.
Geethanandan was born into a rather humble family and joined Kalamandalam as a thullal student in 1974. His father could not afford to pay the fees and he remembered in a Facebook post, how E Sreedharan, the Metroman, became a great source of help. “It was E Sreedharan, the Metroman who helped me by giving me the admission fees”, he wrote in his post, TNIE.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Minister for Culture AK Balan and Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala have reacted to Geethanandan’s unexpected demise and expressed their grief over the loss.