Both hail from Vellinezhi, which is still known for churning out a lot of Kathakali artistes, in Palakkad district. Ramankutty Nair had served in his alma mater, Kerala Kalamandalam, and went on to become its principal. Born in 1925, Ramankutty Nair hailed from a family with no Kathakali pedigree.
But Ravunni Menon, a resident tutor at the renowned Olappamanna Mana (a mansion of the upper-caste Nambudiris) was an overarching presence in the cultural scene of the village, and soon little Ramankutty too fell under his spell.
At Kerala Kalamandalam, where he subsequently mastered the art, Ramankutty Nair later sculpted out several disciples, the most prominent among them being Kalamandalam Gopi besides Kalamandalam Vasu Pisharody, Master of Professional Studies Namboodiri, Balasubramanian and the late K. Gopalakrishnan. Many of the younger generation Kathakali artistes from Kalamandalam, like Soman and Shanmughan, too have had Ramankutty Nair as their guru for advanced training.
(He retired as principal of Kalamandalam in 1985). In his later years, Ramankutty Nair was the chairman of Gandhi Seva Sadan, or Sadanam Kathakali Akademi as it is better known.
Active as an artiste till the age of 85, the master had performed across Kerala, besides having graced stages in the rest of India and several countries of the world.
Renowned filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan has made an eponymous documentary on Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair. of Kathakali, and is a film by the same name on him by Adoor Gopalakrishnan.