in 1920 at Mulakulam village in the outskirts of the city,
Fr. Abel, then known as Mathew, was born to Mathen Vidyan
a traditional doctor and Aleyamma. He set out for pastoral
studies in his 20s at Mannanam, Thevara and Koonammavu. He
proceeded for higher studies at Mangalore after which,he was
ordained a priest in 1951.
became well known as the founder of Kalabhavan now located
on 10 -cents plot near Ernakulam Town Hall, the foundation
stone for which was laid in September 1969. He worked wonders
on the talented youth in and around Kochi. He immortalised
Kalabhavan as a Cultural icon, contributing many mimicry artistes
to filmdom and theatre.
also effortlessly demolished the caste- identification of
art forms like Mohiniyattom, Kathakali and Bhartanatyam, encouraging
artistes from all communities to learn and master the art
forms. Fr. Abel's panacea for organising children and youth
and his credo -"catch them young"- helped him establish
the concept of Kalabhavan. Hundreds of children fine-tune
their skills in over 20 literary fields at Kalabhavan.
was initially captivated by a thirst for expression with journalism
and joined the Deepika daily at Kottayam in 1952.
1953 Fr. Abel left for Rome, where he took Doctorate in journalism
and political science from the International University of
Rome and returned to Kerala. During 1957-'61, he worked as
Asst. Managing Director of the Deepika Daily. It was at this
time that he made a self-discovery and unleashed his creativity
as a poet and lyricist. The job enabled him to expand his
interests in art and literature.
He was then entrusted with the job of a Professor at St. Joseph's
College, Devagiri during the period from 1961 to 1965. Teaching
provided an impetus to the artist and writer in Fr. Abel.
His interaction with students helped him spot talented students.
This led him to explore ways to develop their inborn creative
Holiness Cardinal Parecattil, Archbishop of Ernakulam set
upon him the task of translating prayer books in Syriac into
Malayalam. Thus Fr. Abel reached Ernakulam and found his life's
mission there. Soon he translated over fifteen ancient texts.
Then arose an idea in his mind - why not write original devotional
songs in Malayalam?
wrote numerous songs, which were set to music by late Mr.
K. K. Antony. They became very popular with the public and
with the clergy alike. Some cassettes of song collections
became instant hits and popular all over Kerala. The lyrics
were simple and the tunes are trendy while deeply devotional.
Perhaps the success of the cassettes brought about the need
for formal music education.
first batch of artistes who formed the core of Kalabhavan
were actually an orchestra troupe organized to present concerts
of Christian devotional songs. Fr. Abel was in a prolific
mood during this time and wrote around a thousand devotional
songs. Over 60 songs were recorded.
founded classes mainly to train vocal and instrumental music.
In the course of his mission he discovered numerous talents
and popularized the unique art form – mimicry.
August 15, 1974, His Holiness Late Cardinal Parecattil, the
life- patron of Kalabhavan, laid the- foundation stone for
its new building on 12 crents of land behind Ernakulam Town
six months of the laying of the foundation, Kalabhavan had
moved its office into the ground floor of the building, which
later was build to 4 floors. The spacious auditorium on the
third floor was opened in 1978.
the years, Fr.Able build Kalabhavan into a magnificent institution
spanning various disciplines. The programs by Kalabhavan artists
first covered all Kerala and then all parts of India where
Malayalees reside in good numbers. Shortly afterwards, they
began performing around the world including USA.
this time, former mimicry artists became mega-stars in the
Malayalam Film Industry. It came to be that Kalabhavan
was deemed as the stepping-stones to stardom.
also oversaw the building of the Kalabhavan Residential Talent
School and the Recording Studios at Kakkanad.