Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Bharati: Shraddha’s play for children

By Charukesi

Vijay Tendulkar; Delhi’s YadarthaPenneswaran;Ramesh Vinayakam.  This rare combination of theatre talent, responsible for a recent production of the play Bharati offered a really enjoyable evening's entertainment at Narada Gana Sabha, in November last year--confirmation that the Tamil theatre group Shraddha has come of age.  

If Shraddha's inaugural production Dhanushkoti was a whiff of fresh air in the Tamil sabha theatre scene, it indeed created a stir among the audience, for its unmatched set design with rain water pouring from the top in the middle of a house in the coastal town of Dhanushkoti.  The play was set in the midst of a tempest when rain lashes the town.

Prominent Tamil writers like Anand Raghav and Era Murukan contributed unsual scripts to Shraddha’s subsequent productions such as Doosra Valai, Vadavooran, Vyuham, and Viduran, which were different in conception and presentation,

Bharati was different.  It was meant for children, but the audience consisted entirely of elders.   Vijay Tendulkar wrote this script over thirty years ago and Yadartha Penneswaran an avid theatreperson from Delhi thought it fit to translate it into Tamil for its contemporary relevance.

An employed couple leave Bharati, (played by Mahima) at home for work but return only in the night, when the girl is asleep. When the incomes of both husband and wife determine the economic prosperity of a normal middle class family, children like Bharati tend to suffer alone.  

In her innocence, Bharati turns the clock to night to make her her mom and dad return home, but ends up meeting characters like Micky Mouse, the moon-girl, stars, mermaids, Akbar, Birbal, Shivaji, Joker, and Horseman trying to be friendly with her.  The child Bharati longs to see her mother and father, but they turn up only at midnight, cursing each other.

What stands out in the production is its true to life make-up of the artists, costumes, sets and utterly enjoyable acting of the first timers – all of them.

YadarthaPenneswaran has translated the original Marathi play (‘Bobbychi Ghostha’) with all its powerful scenes and mild humour.  

The background music by Ramesh Vinayakam is very appropriate and he sings a song, too!

Shraddha staged the play for the first time on Children’s Day, but only very few children were there in the auditorium.  One hopes Shraddha will take it to many more venues so that children enjoy the play with all its lovable characters and superb music.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Nandini Sharma Anand

Musicians for classical dance

By Anjana Anand

Nandini Anand began her career with training in both the practical and theoretical aspects of music. An ‘A’ grade vocalist from All India Radio, she is at present a full time Bharatanatyam vocalist who has accompanied senior artistes in the field. She speaks to Sruti about her entry into the Bharatanatyam world and her satisfying journey to date.

Has music been a part of your life since childhood?

Yes, my parents were interested in music and my sister used to learn Carnatic music when we were in Bombay. I moved to Chennai when I was in my second standard and my exposure grew. I started going for competitions and took music more seriously. My early training was with a teacher named T. Vijayalakshmi.  By the time I finished my 12th standard, I knew that I wanted to take music up full time.

You started your career in music in the formal setting of a university. Did research interest you?

I finished my B.A in music at Queen Mary’s College and Masters at Madras University. I also completed the Junior Research Fellowship exam by UGC and had an opportunity to apply for a PhD. However, I decided not to continue in that line. Somehow, I felt I wanted to focus on my singing and research did not interest me anymore at that point in my life.

What was the turning point as regards your entry into the Bharatanatyam field?

During a series of concerts, mridangist Viswanathan, asked me whether I could sing in a recording for Dr. Nagaswamy’s production. Many dancers heard the music in that production and Revathi Ramachandran contacted me to ask me to sing for her.

Who were your music gurus?

I continued my learning with DK Pattammal. At the University, I had many teachers, Ritha Rajan, Suguna Varadachari and Karaikudi Subramaniam to name a few.  The standard of teaching was so high that I felt very confident of my foundation in music. I could feel that I had moved to another level because of that exposure. My last stint was with the late Suguna Purushothaman.

Did you find it difficult to adapt to different teaching styles?

People used to say that I had the MLV school of music in my voice and music. When I joined Pattammal, I was not conscious of styles. I just absorbed and learnt the way I was taught.  I am not a great fan of divisions based on banis and styles. I feel we should focus on the music and take the best from each teacher. Some things might be easier to adapt depending on your voice and we have to be aware of that. Of course there is a difference in pathantaram from teacher to teacher but when you learn from the best, this only gives you a wider understanding of music.  Finally, your music will only get better if you keep an open mind.

The artistes you have sung for in the Bharatanatyam field?

I have sung for Sudharani Raghupathy for many years. Singing continuously for different schools helped me because I began to understand how my music could help the dancer. In Revathi Ramachandran’s school, the music was more fixed and I noted down the repetitions, whereas in Sudharani aunty’s school, it was more fluid. I had to watch for a cue from the dancer to move to the next line of music. Recently, I have sung for Alarmel Valli, Malavika Sarukkai, students of Jayanthi Subramaniam and Roja Kannan.

From the time you started singing for Bharatanatyam, how has your music changed ?

To be honest, when I first started singing, I was not aware of the dance! Of course I loved Bharatanatyam. From a young age, I used to watch performances with great interest but perhaps it was the costumes and glamour that I was attracted to! Because even back then, I was not aware of the music being sung while the dancer performed.

When I first started singing, my focus was only on my music and about singing correctly. I would even close my eyes and sing in my own world! It took many years before I began to see the performance as a whole, where the music interacts with the dance. That was quite a learning curve for me. Today, when I sing, I feel very much part of the whole presentation. I watch the dancer very closely and I sing for the dance.

Has your music changed in any way after singing for Bharatanatyam?

The most noticeable change for me was an improvement in keeping tala. As a concert artiste, I never paid much attention to my tala as it moved naturally with the music. When I started to sing for Bharatanatyam, I had to concentrate and be very precise with the tala as there were so many cross rhythms happening simultaneously. My concept of bhava also expanded. In a kutcheri when we sing keertanams, the emphasis is on raga bhava. Once I started singing for natyam, I became more conscious of the words and bringing out the emotion the dancer was portraying.

Have you composed music?

Yes I composed music for some of the Natyarangam thematic series, like Amba- Shikhandi performed by Priya Murle. I set the music for the Pillai Tamizh choreographed by Uma Namboodiripad.

Do you continue singing in cutcheris?

I find it difficult to juggle both. Singing for Bharatanatyam takes a toll on the voice because of rehearsals. Also, now I have reached a stage where I enjoy singing in a natyam performance. There is no tension because my practice is complete and my mind is tuned to the work. To sing for cutcheris regularly, I need to practice for that specially. To be honest, I don’t see the necessity to pressurize myself and become tense by over working. I believe that music should be an unstressful part of my life!

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Natya Sangraham 2015 at Tennangur

By Charukesi   

Although students of several Bharatanatyam schools longed to join the annual dance camp Natya Sangraham, organized by the Narada Gana Sabha Trust, dance festival programmes in several local sabhas prevented them from attending the workshop. However nearly 22 students from different parts of the globe participated in it with the usual enthusiasm.

While the music aspect was covered by vidwan T.V. Ramprasadh, his wife Indira Kadambi took care of the technicalities relating to satvika abhinaya and angika.  The convener of the workshop, Prof. C.V. Chandrasekar, while overall in charge of the day’s proceedings, focused his attention on workout sessions.   These sessions turned out to be vigorous at times and CVC personally corrected the positions of the participants during their work out.

Vidwan Ramprasadh sang the kritis for which Indira Kadambi demonstrated the abhinaya.  These included Ramanukku mannan mudi tharithaale from Arunachalakavi’s Ramanatakam and Suryamurte of Muthuswami Dikshitar.   Ramprasad stressed the importance of the dancer knowing the kriti.  “Try to put in extra effort to sing the song, train yourself to sing your composition,” was his fervent plea to the dancers.   According to him, it adds an extra dimension to the artist’s performance.  

Indira Kadambi demonstrated the dance for certain kritis sung by Ramprasadh and showed how the dancer could ornament it with each word and sentence.  “Like niraval in music, it is also relevant to dance” she said and added that “it provided ample scope for the performer’s imaginative skill.”

She demonstrated abhinaya for the lines Paadhi udalil pennai maraithirupanadi from a Tamil kriti in Todi.  Here she drew the attention of the participants to the scope for robust imagination.
Indira also demonstrated certain passages to explain angika aspects. 

The poetry appreciation session by Dr. Sudha Seshayyan was, as usual, a treat for the participants. “Poetry need not be connected to words at all, it is beyond words", she said.  She allayed the fears of a few who raised the question, ‘Can poetry appreciation be taught in a session?’  According to her, appreciation comes from interpretation.  Sudha dwelt at length on poems from Kannadasan to Kamban, drawing references to situation, mood and the art of communication. 

The participants demonstrated the lines Thedi choru nidham thinru of Bharatiyar depending upon their understanding of the crux of the poetic narrative and drew applause from the faculty.
“Allow the poem to sink in.  Ask questions.  Be emotional.  Have sensory experience.  Try to live it!” she advised.

V.V. Ramani spoke about the costume revolution. He said that there was no stitched costume in the good old days and how after the advent of films, costume designers were introduced and tailors entered the arena.   He emphasized the importance of stage aesthetics.  At the same time, he cautioned that once the artiste begins to dance, it pales into insignificance.   He advised the participants to do some home work with regard to stage.  They should take into account the colour of the costume they wear and the colour of the backdrop on the stage.   Dancers should take pay attention to the costume, because the audience comes to watch the dancers perform, not the stage d├ęcor, light or tendency to fill up the stage, which is also distracting.   Ramani advised the participants not to overdo things.

In his aharya session, Ramani requested the services of Balaji Bhattacharyar of the Panduranga temple to demonstrate the wearing of panchakacham properly.

There was a brief session on compering for progammes in which well known stage artist and director and Natyarangam committee member P.C. Ramakrishna gave some useful hints and tips.

The merriment of the villagers around Tennangur was seen on the days of Dolotsavam and Golden Chariot, when vidwan T.V. Ramprasadh (vocal) and committee member K.S. Subramanian (mridangam) entertained them with music.    The evening dance presentations by participants also drew visitors to the auditorium. They sat with eyes glued to the stage and enjoyed the performances.

On Republic Day, flag hoisting by Prof. C.V. Chandrasekhar was followed by singing of patriotic songs in which all the members of Tennangur temple management and the staff of the caterers enthusiastically participated.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Suguna Purushothaman passes away

A great artist and wonderful human being
By Samudri

Chennai, 25 February 2015

After a brave and prolonged battle, vidushi Suguna Purushothaman succumbed to cancer at Chennai, today. One of the best known disciples of Musiri Subramania Iyer (as well as Semmangudi Srinivasier), she was one of the most loved and sought after guru, besides being an accomplished concert artist and musicologist of a high order. She was known for her happy temperament, great sense of humour and ready wit.

At a concert-lecture on Musiri a couple of years ago, this is what she said: “The years I spent learning music from Musiri Subramania Iyer marked a golden period of my life.While attending one of his concerts, you forgot after the first few moments that he was singing or even that you were listening, so deep was the bliss of complete absorption in the music.” 

She often  gave lecture audiences samples of the Musiri way of niraval or swaram singing, with special emphasis on niraval, on how he stressed the importance of getting the lyric right, of choosing the best possible place in the song to do niraval even among a number of appropriate lines, of how vital the meaning of the lyric was to this choice. 


If her disciples loved her, Suguna adored them in equal measure. She was enormously proud of them, and enjoyed presenting lectures accompanied by her principal student K Gayatri.


Suguna Purushothaman will be missed by the world of Carnatic music. The void will be hard to fill. We salute her spirit and her devotion to music.