The mid-1980s saw in Kerala, particularly in its central parts, the rise of a new vision in organising and appreciating Kathakali. Vazhenkada Kunchunair Memorial Trust was born from this new vision. Perhaps it was not accidental that the centre for this activism became Karalmanna, the birthplace of that eponymous Kathakali artist whose obsession was refining Kathakali’s stage and classroom. Thus at a meeting of the late Kunchunair’s disciples and friends on the 16th of May in 1987 was born the Trust.

The main thrust of the Trust was: make Kathakali performances more enjoyable and experiential for the connoisseur, organise workshops that will shed more light on the performance and the kalari or the classroom, and to build a new aesthetic and societal perspective among the artists and the viewers.

Kunchunair Trust has been active in publishing too — Kathakalivettam, Vitaparanja Divyagayakan, Ranganaishadham and Mudra are some of the titles published by the Trust.

Even after 35 years of inception, the Trust is actively engaged in its mission, adjusting to the demands of the changing times but adhering to its fundamental principles. It is involved in shaping a serious approach to art appreciation by innovative interventions in organising and appreciating Kathakali. It has also kept up with the times by embracing the latest technology to stream live its programmes.

The Trust took Kathakali to a young audience with detailed introductions that focussed not merely on the story line, but on the language and syntax of this artform. Week-long workshops tried to inculcate an intellectual approach to Kathakali both by artists and connoisseurs.

In the late 1990s the Trust tapped the power of television to take Kathakali to the sitting rooms all over Kerala. Kathakali Samaroham that ran on Asianet channel for four years was one of the channel’s hit artistic programmes.

Kunchunair Trust has also played a part in the production of the award-winning feature film Vanaprastham, and in the documentary Minukku on the life of the late actor Kottakkal Sivaraman.