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P S Banarji: The Unique Genius Who Became Immortal Through His Art

Folk songs, the heartthrob of Kerala are known for their rich tradition, shared by generation after generation orally. P S Banarji, the prince of ‘Nadan pattu’ had created his own space by making innovations in this genre. He was a singer, and painter well-versed in illustrations, sculpture, caricature and animation. He was the founder of ‘Kanal Pattukoottam’.

P S Banarji was born in Manayil house, Sasthamcotta as the second son of V Pachu and Subhadra. His family consists of his parents, siblings Azad, Chatterjee, his wife Jayaprabha and two kids, Oscar and Nobel. He worked as an animation artist in an IT firm in Technopark.

Banarji studied at Chithiravilasom School Mynagappally, John Memorial High School Sasthamcotta, Kumbalathu Sanku Pillai Memorial D B College Sasthamcotta, Fine Arts College Thiruvananthapuram, and Vismaya Max Thiruvananthapuram. He was the sculptor of the biggest Buddha idol in Kerala which is made from a Dalit perspective as well as the Ayyankali statue at Vavvamoola, Thiruvananthapuram. He has done illustrations for books such as ‘Kuttante swargam’, ‘Kuzhiyana’, ‘Kilikunju’, ‘Kizhavanum kadalum’ etc. His caricatures were unique. He made caricatures of many renowned personalities and even got an opportunity to directly hand over his caricature to the famous photographer Nich Ut and this brought him national acclaim. He has also sung for albums like Kanal, Mitharam, Theyyarayyam and Kuruthola.

His famous songs were “Tharakapennnale”, “Achuthan mukilvarnan’’, “Villuvandiyileri Vanna’’, ‘Kochikarathi kochu penne’’ and so on. His evergreen song ‘‘Tharakapennale’’, composed by Sathyan Komalloor and music by Madhu Mundakathil will always remain in the mind of Malayalees. He conducted music programmes both inside and outside Kerala as well as in Gulf countries including U A E.


Banarji began his musical life in pre-degree time at DB College. It was the time of street theatre and folklore. He along with Prakash Kuttan, his senior has done many works like Kurathi, Aramanavattam etc and the painter and singer in him reached its peak during the degree period. With him, folk songs also got much public attention. Mathai Sunil also joined their group and formed the trio. They organised a performing group “Nadodi”, which conducted art processions in colonies to promote Dalit ideas. Later “Nadodi” concentrated on folklore songs.

Banarji and Mathai started performing with the great folk artist C J Kuttappan.They performed on streets, on festival grounds and during celebrations in the southern districts of Kerala. Their programme telecasted in Doordarshan made their fame wide. Banarji also worked with Kuttappan’s group ‘Thayillam’ and later left it to focus on his performing band ‘Kanal’.

He got an opportunity to sing in a movie directed by Sidharth Siva. Banarji was well-known for his band ‘Kanal Pattukuttam’. It was a blend of ancient and modern ages, a new experience for the folklore audience to see ‘Nadanpattu’ with new musical instruments and a changed ambience where the singers with a modern look, wore branded dress codes and their rhythm gave energy boosters to the audience He applied the changes of our period to his artform and thereby made a transition in art. He protested to save the backwater programmes and was on the frontline of ‘kudil Ketti samaram’ led by C K Janu in front of the Secretariat against the government of that time.

Banarji received Folklore Academy’s Young Talent Award in 2014. He partook in the “Onam celebration” of 2019 organised by the Kerala government. He was also selected by State Lalithakala Academy for a solo cartoon exhibition. He got the ‘Karimpoli’ award in 2019.

He conducted online live sessions to overcome the tedium during the pandemic. He was affected by COVID virus and suffered post-COVID problems. During his bedridden days in the hospital too, he made caricatures of the nurses and other patients there and entertained them. Yes, he was a genuine artist in all senses who tried in his good and bad times to entertain others with his talent. It is said that “birth and death are just passages, not of life but of time”. On the sixth of August 2021, he overcame those passages of time. Death is an eternal truth, we can’t just escape from it. The goal isn’t to live forever but to create something that will. Through his works, Banarji still lives in our hearts. Hearing the name Banarji, his voice resonating in our minds, “Njangal Kanal, namuk thee aakam,Ningal kaattakumenkil’’ which translates to, “we are embers, but we can be the flame if you became the breeze”.

His band still moves on with wonderful-energy-packed performances. A group of artists including his brothers and friends are planning to promote his art to the next generation. He was honoured with the “Arali” award and “Kanal Qatar Award” posthumously. On the sixth of August 2022, Saturday the folklore association of Kollam, ‘Nattukalakarakuttam’ is planning to conduct a cultural programme in Tharavadu Auditorium, Bharanikavu to commemorate him on his first death anniversary under the title ‘’Ormayil Banarji”. The function will be inaugurated by honourable deputy speaker Mr Chittayam Gopakumar and the current chairman of Kerala State Film Academy, Mr Ranjith will hand over the first ‘PS Banarj Award’ to Manikandan Perumpadappu. Renowned personalities from the social and cultural sectors will take part in the programme.