Pattikkanthodi Ravunni Menon’s was a life devoted to the cause of Kathakali. Born at Chenthallur, near Vellinezhi in Palakkad district in September 1880, his father was Madhavan Embrathiri, a temple priest at the Raman Thrikovil Temple and mother Narayani. He lost both his parents at a very young age. Though he was under the care of his maternal uncle and aunt, life was miserable for the boy. He started learning the alphabets form Madathil Gopalan Nair at the age of five. As it was not possible to continue the class beyond third, he had to abandon his studies.
From the age of ten, he began learning Kathakali as a kalari under the guidance and supervision of Olappamanna Mana. His guru (teacher) was Ittichararissa Menon.
Ravunni menon recalls those days.
“Practice session would start early in the morning at three. Then the Kalari (place where the performance / practice is done) will be cleaned and melapadam, thodayam (a ritual performed mostly by junior artists in their traditional training costume, as prelude to Kathakali with devotional element) performed. After uzhichil it will be time for bath at 10 o’ clock. Then we come back at 12, it will be time for practicing eye movements, brows, each and every facial muscle. After that till 5, it is cholliyattam (Singing and dancing with gestures). At 6, to understand and perfect the rhythm beats. And, go to bed at 10 pm.”
Ravunni Menon’s debut performance was in 1980. From 1897 onwards he began performing regularly. In 1902 following the death of his guru, Ravunni Menon assumed the role of teacher, and taught disciples. Then he gained knowledge on ‘Natyasastra’ under Kodugalloor Mahakavi Cheriya Kochunni Thampuran and Bhagavatar Kunjunni Thampuran.
In1928, Olapamanna Thampuran’s and the natives presented him with Veerasrinkala in 1933; he was appointed the main teacher at Kalamandalam. The Kalluvazhichitta which he learned from his guru Ittirasrissa Menon, was later perfected thanks to the efforts of Ravunni Menon. He would only his own headgears and things on stage. He was very particular about that. The thalabodham (rhythmic sense) that he was blessed with was widely acclaimed and appreciated. He proved that he could perform the Ponnani Krithyam. He had been Asan at Kottakkal Natya Sanghom.
His wife was Ammukutty Amma of Kuravatoor Cherukandathu. He had four children. Elder son Padmanbhan was teacher and later Principal at Kalamandalam. The second is also in the field of Kathakali. The third one Narayanan is serving as professor in foreign University, daughter Padmavathy.
Ravunni Menon breathed his last in 1948.