Thursday, 19 June 2014

Remembering good friend Prapancham Sitaram

By Sandhya Vinjamuri

I could not believe the news of Prapancham Sitaram’s demise on 1 June in the U.S.A. He was a good family friend.

Sitaram was a regular visitor to our house during my college years. He used to work in AIR-Madras as a PEX (Programme executive). He lived in Triplicane and our house was just walking distance from All India Radio. He would come to see my father Vinjamuri Varadaraja Iyengar to discuss matters of music and learn some songs. After that I did not have any contact with him until one day I saw an email he had sent to the Sangeethapriya group. I then sent him a message and thus began our friendship through email. He wrote that he considered my father his ‘Guruthulyar’ because my father had taught him some rare kritis whenever he visited Prapancham in Triplicane. My brother Bhavana Chari, a mridangist, also had practice sessions there. Prapancham even offered to share with me the paper in which my father had written the Dikshitar kriti Pavanatmaja gaccha in Nata raga in his own hand.

In March 2012 Prapancham came to the US and telephoned to me. I was then passing through a traumatic phase – I had lost two elder brothers within a span of seven weeks, both intimately connected to music. I was yet to recover from the blow. Prapancham wished to pay his tribute to my father by playing for his Smrityanjali that I conducted every year during the April-July period. I told him I would not be able to organise it this time because of the physical and mental state I was in. However, I helped to arrange concerts for him at the South Indian Music Academy (SIMA), Los Angeles, and other venues. Prapancham tried his best to persuade me to organise the annual musical tribute, and I finally gave in to my conscience that had started pricking me for refusing the honest request of a good friend and reputed vidwan. It occurred to me that I would soon be leaving Los Angeles permanently to move back to India by the end of the year and this could well be my last Smrityanjali in the U.S.A. I also wanted to do something in memory of my brothers.

I therefore contacted the Hare Krishna Temple – the venue for the concert – and they were more than happy to have a flute concert in front of Lord Krishna. I made arrangements for them to prepare a feast for a minimum of 150 people so that I could do annadanam in honour of my brothers. Prapancham was thrilled. As the decision was made in the last minute, I had no choice but to call two students of music to accompany him on the mridangam and the violin. Prapancham was most gracious and played with the amateurs without a complaint. He also spoke about my father and paid his tribute to him before the concert. I remember his words came from his heart.

Prapancham played my father’s varnam in the raga Swararanjani and explained the difficulty in handling such a rare raga. The programme was a success. I played host to Prapancham and his son’s family, and we all spent a good two days together. I am forever grateful to him for being the catalyst to conduct that year’s programme in honour of my father. Looking back I know I would have felt awful had I not organised the memorial function.

Prapancham played the same varnam in one of his AIR concerts and informed me in time for me to be able to get a recording of it. He would often invite me to lunch or dinner with the family. It is a pity that I could not fulfill his wish.

1 comment:

  1. Prapancham Sitaram’s was a great man with great attitude! miss him..may his soul rest in peace!! Body Cameras in Hyderabad