S.Rajam’s (Music Appreciation notes)

Saturday, 31 August 2019

FROM THE EDITOR


In mid-August this year, Google announced a long-term collaboration with Prasar Bharati, under which the former will host livestreams and digitise content for the public broadcasting agency. What is interesting and important is that the tech giant will aid Prasar Bharati to digitise over two decades worth of content with Doordarshan and All India Radio, across 12 Indian languages, and this will be hosted on Google Arts & Culture. It will indeed be a big step in bringing the best of Prasar Bharati’s programmes on India’s rich history and culture to digital users across age-groups to a wide range of global audiences. It certainly augurs well for Indian art and culture.

Another commendable development in the storage and archiving of Indian art is the donation of the mammoth Mohan Khokar Dance Collection (MKDC) to the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) in New Delhi. The collection, preserved with care by dance writer Ashish Khokar, was initiated several decades ago by his father—the famous writer, performer and arts administrator Prof. Mohan Khokar (1924-1999)—with the grand vision of documenting dance. The treasure trove comprises a mindboggling number of photographs, paper clippings, publications, posters, artefacts and memorabilia of dancers over the decades. It is heart-warming that the MKDC has finally found a befitting space at IGNCA where a team guided by Ashish Khokar has already begun sorting, sifting, and categorising the material with the long term plan of digitising and setting up a gallery-museum. Sruti is well aware of the pioneering collection of Mohan Khokar who was a good friend and used to contribute articles with rare photos quite regularly to the magazine. In fact when N. Pattabhi Raman and Mohan Khokar (who had relocated to Chennai) decided to collaborate, the Sruti Foundation played a small role in helping to transport the MKDC collection to Chennai.

The past month has seen the sad demise of two veterans dedicated to the arts. RajalakshmiParthasarathy, popularly known as Mrs. YGP, Dean & Director of the PSBB group of schools, visionary educationist, and patron of art and culture, passed away in Chennai on 6 August 2019 at the age of 93. She was a multifacetedwoman who, apartfrom playing a pioneering role in education, has left her mark in journalism, theatre, women’s welfare, social causes, restoration of temples, and talent promotion. A major contribution of Mrs. YGP is that she propagated art and culture among the young in a big way because she believed in developing a holistic approach to education with emphasis on all-round personality development. Braving her illness, she was an inspiring presence in Chennai art circles.  She received several awards; Sruti too honoured her with the M. Venkatakrishnan Memorial Award for her role as‘sabhanayaka’ of Bharat Kalachar.

To those who have seen the Ramayana dance-dramas of Kalakshetra, C.K. Balagopalan is synonymous with Anjaneya. From his teens till the very end, “Balagopal” remained the dedicated, enthusiastic, sprightly dancer who poured his heart and soul into the diverse roles he played on stage and came up with a memorable performance every time. He was an integral part of Kalakshetra. After his retirement, the veteran dancer ran his own dance school, took part in dance productions, workshops, and mentored dancers at Kalakshetra. The dance world has lost a great artist in his sudden demise on 24 August in Chennai.

Sruti conveys its heartfelt condolences to the family members of Mrs. YGP and C.K. Balagopalan. (We have published cover stories in August 2015 and October 2010 respectively.)

In the September issue we offer varied fare with articles on Bhajan Sopori— veteran Hindustani santoor maestro, an interview with young but established Carnatic musician Amritha Murali, and the second article in the series on art pioneers in the Indian diaspora focussing on Houston-based classical dancer Rathna Papa Kumar. Apart from several news reports you can also read the first of a three-part article on Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan’s Melaragamalika.
S. JANAKI

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

M.M. Dandapani Desigar

Birthdays & Anniversaries

Ahumble temple singer and teacher of religious hymns to children, he went on to become a celluloid hero, charismatic classical performer and university music professor. He not only set high standards of teaching but also carved a niche for himself in musical innovation and composition. Here is a tale of continuing re-invention by a man of poor resources who did not go beyond the pyol school in his village but eventually became an icon of the Tamil isai movement. He did well by himself too, securing the best of bargains in a status and wealth conscious society. 

M.M. Dandapani Desigar (1908-1973). Thirty-five years after his passing, his ringing voice and evocative Tamil song continue to inspire artists and activists in the cause of ethnic Tamil music in his birth centenary year. In a milieu where language and culture have become focal points of identity and politics, the resonant example of Dandapani Desigar is a continuing source of inspiration. Some mainstream musicians too recognise his musical worth and value his Tamil oeuvre.
To read full story, visit sruti.com and buy Sruti 288

T.N. Rajarathnam Pillai

Birthdays & Anniversaries

T.N. Rajarathnam Pillai was a nagaswara wizard, a trailblazer and a legend. Rajarathnam was born in August in 1898 and breathed his last in December 1956 at the relatively young age of 58. He was popularly referred to as TNR. For nearly half a century he strode the world of Carnatic music like a colossus. By arduous and diligent practice over the years, he gained incredible mastery over music and his chosen instrument. His rendition of kriti-s were flawless and the swaraprastara sparkling. He  was popularly  associated  with  Todi  raga  – his  name  became synonymous  with  it because of  his  brilliant  exposition  and delineation of  the  raga.  Even  so,  he  also played, in  equal degree  of  excellence,  many  other  rakti raga-s.  Who  can  forget  his Simhendramadhyamam, Shanmukhapriya,  Ramapriya, Vachaspati, Pantuvarali and Kalyani?

  To read full story, visit sruti.com and buy Sruti 323

Saturday, 24 August 2019

Sanjukta Panigrahi

Birthdays & Anniversaries
24.8.1944 - 24.6.1997

" Sanju took Odissi dance to its pinnacle of glory," observed her guru of a lifetime, Kelucharan Mohapatra, lamenting her death. "Her Moksha transcended the limits of aesthetics and became a spiritual experience. Now she has attained moksha." 

Moksha is perhaps the right word to describe her destination. For her dance was an offering to the Lord.'l am doing pooja with my dance," she told an interviewer five years ago.

That dance would become the medium for her moksha likely never crossed the minds of her orthodox brahmin parents when she was born, on 24 August 1944, in Berhampur, Orissa. But, whether they realised it or not, she was born to dance. Even as a little girl, she showed a natural aptitude for it and her mother, a trained singer, decided that she would encourage her to learn Odissi, which itself was struggling at that time to gain a distinct identity and acceptance as a classical dance-form. At the request of the mother, Kelucharan Mohapatra took Sanju, then five years young, under his wings and gave her intensive training. He recently recalled that even as Sanju "danced" for him when he first saw her at her parents' house, he realised she was something.
   To read full story, visit sruti.com and buy Sruti 156

B. KRISHNAMOORTHY

Birthdays & Anniversaries
24.8.1932

A devoted teacher of Carnatic music

Vidwan  B.  Krishnamoorthy  is  a  multifaceted  artist  – Carnatic vocalist, musicologist, researcher, and passionate teacher. He was born  on  24  August  1932  at  Padarakudi near  Karaikudi, where he lived with his maternal grandfather for a while. He had three brothers,  the  eldest being  the  late Sangita  Kalanidhi B.Rajam  Iyer. Krishnamoorthy’s biological mother gave him in adoption to her childless elder sister Ananthalakshmi. So it was that little Krishnamoorthy grew up in his ‘Periamma’s’ house at Paganeri. Fond of music, he liked to listen to the songs of S.G. Kittappa, Subbiah Bhagavatar and others. The Sri Rama Navami Utsavam was a grand annual celebration at home. Attracted to the bhajana paddhati, the child started learning the songs when he was five years old from Atmanatha Iyer and Tirukoshtiyur Iyengar. He knew all the songs by heart – from the Todayamangalam to the final Deepa Pradakshinam. He can remember most of it even now.

To read full story, visit sruti.com and buy Sruti 368

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Sandhyavandanam Srinivasa Rao

                                                               Birthdays & Anniversaries
21.8.1918-1994

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Remembering MDR


By S. Sivaramakrishnan

The annual 'MDR Day', celebrated under the banner of 'Kedaram',  at Tripunithura has found an important place in Kerala's   cultural calendar. Krishnamurthi, organiser of the event, who is noted for infusing new ideas to make the memorial event outstanding every year, had a Rasikas Forum this time to enable them to share their experiences of the music of the late vidwan M.D. Ramanathan. There was a very good turn out of music lovers.


The chief guest,  mridanga vidwan Palghat T.R. Rajamani, made a brief speech highlighting the brahmalayam innate in  MDR. He also pointed out that it was necessary to understand the basics of the Carnatic idiom to appreciate it properly. 

(L to R) Krishnamurthi,  Mavelikara P. Subramaniam, Palghat Rajamani, P.R.  Kumara Kerala Varma, Sreevalsan J. Menon and Santhala Raju.
A book containing 20 compositions of M.D. Ramanathan, aptly titled Varadadaasyam, and notated  by Tripunithura-based musician Santhala Raju, was released. The first copy of the book was received by  veteran vidwan P.R. Kumara Kerala Varma,  one of the senior most disciples of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. The foreword has been written by vidwan T.V.  Gopalakrishnan,  who had a long association with MDR. The book contains compositions including the popular Hariyum Haranum (Athana), Sagara sayana vibho (Bagesree), and rare songs like the one on Lord Poornatrayeesa and on Madurai Meenakshi.
A section of the audience
The open forum on MDR's music in which several admirers, including musicians, participated, was moderated by musicians P. Subramaniam and Sreevalsan J. Menon.  Several admirers in the audience, including musicians, enthusiastically shared their views on MDR's music and the great yet simple man that he was. I too spoke about the experience of having listened to MDR's sublime music at the Trivandrum Navaratri Mandapam for about 20 years in a row during the  1960s to 80s. 

The concert in the evening featured the Mysore Brothers (violin duo) with K.V.  Prasad (mridangam).

Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar awards

By Samudri
The Central Sangeet Natak Akademi presented the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar awards on 19 August 2019, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Manipur Dance Academy (JNMDA) auditorium at Imphal, in conjunction with the inauguration of the festival of music, dance and drama at the same venue. Governor Dr. Najma Heptulla presented the awards and honoured the artists.

Click the link below for the complete list of awardees.

Flautist J.B. Sruthi Sagar receiving his Yuva Puraskar award

Vani Kala Nipuna Awards


by Samudri


The 10th annual Sri Jayanti Music Festival of Sri Thyaga Bramha Gana Sabha was inaugurated on 17 August 2019 at Vani Mahal in Chennai. The sabha honoured V. Shankaranarayanan (vocal), B.U. Ganesh Prasad (violin), Mannarkoil J. Balaji (mridangam). J. Suryanarayana Murthy (Bharatanatyam) and Malathy Sampath (Theatre) with the title ‘Vani Kala Nipuna’.
Justice Prabha Sridevan inaugurated the festival and K. Harishankar, Secretary, Narada Gana Sabha, felicitated the artists.

Monday, 12 August 2019

Shanta Dhananjayan

Birthdays & Anniversaries

12.8.1943
Shanta was born on 12 August 1943 into a well to do Indian family in Malaysia, her ancestors having migrated there from Kerala. A child prodigy, she showed enough promise even as a three-year-old for her parents to decide to send her to India for her education. She joined Kalakshetra in June 1952, when she was eight.
After a brief period in Kerala, her parents wanted to send her to Shantiniketan, which was then a great center for the arts. With the encouragement of her uncle Achuta Menon, they sent her to Kalakshetra. Shanta earned her Post Graduate Diploma with distinction in Bharatanatyam and also learned Kathakali and Carnatic music. She was a prominent dancer in Kalakshetra’s productions from 1955 to1968, the year she left the institution.

She was the first girl Dhananjayan was introduced to when he, a village boy, who knew nothing except Malayalam, arrived at Kalakshetra. Shanta was a serious girl totally devoted to her dance and she secretly made up her mind even at the age of 12 to partner Dhananjayan in life.

                                    To read full story, visit sruti.com and buy Sruti 326

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Lalmani Mishra

                                                               Birthdays & Anniversaries

11.8.1924 - 17.7.1979

Vidwan T H Vikku Vinayakram

Birthdays & Anniversaries

11.8.1942 

Among the senior ghatam vidwans of southern India, Vinayakram has enjoyed a long and successful career as a professional musician. In playing the ghatam, he has evolved a style, which though rooted in the conventional technique, is highly individual in spirit. His is also a style that is responsive to other systems of music, accounting for his success with Western ensembles. He has exhibited his improvisatory genius playing complex rhythms for various fusion groups such as Shakti, and for J.G. Laya— an experimental group of musicians including pianists and percussionists.

Vinayakram was born on 11 August 1942 at Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu. He received his training in playing the ghatam initially from his father T.R. Harihara Sarma, and later systematic instruction in the art at the Sri Jaya Ganesh Tala Vadya Vidyalaya, Chennai. He made his concert debut at the age of 13. As a ghatam accompanist, Vinayakram has performed with a host of eminent Carnatic musicians.

Among musicians of both the West and the East, he is known for his crisp play and deep knowledge of rhythm. Vinayakram has trained a number of students and lectured on percussion at institutions in India and abroad. He briefly served All India Radio (1970), and worked as Lecturer in Ghatam at the Centre for World Music, Berkeley (1974). He has been Principal of the Sri Jaya Ganesh Tala Vadya Vidyalaya since 1978. The school, which has about 100 students on its rolls, imparts training in percussion free of cost.

                                      To read full story, visit sruti.com and buy Sruti 390

Saturday, 10 August 2019

V.N. Bhatkhande and Alladiya Khan

Birthdays & Anniversaries

10.8.1860-19.9.1936
Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande was a true crusader. He pursued the study of music passionately as well as scientifically, collected cheej-s from all over the country, wrote books, established the 10-thaat system and developed a method of notating music—and, through these and other activities, succeeded in evoking in the people a sense of history and pride in this aspect of Indian culture. He had learnt music from eminent teachers and studied ancient treatises but, because his main vocation was law, musicians were initially hostile to him. They mocked the very idea that a lawyer could know much about music, let alone talk to them about its scientific principles and rules and regulations. In sum, their attitude was: “Who cares what he says!” But those who scoffed came to respect and admire him and his contribution to the development of Hindustani music.


10.8.1855-16.3.1946
At birth, he was named Ghulam Ahmed, but people began calling him Alladiya [Given by Allah] because he was born in answer to the prayers of his parents who had lost all their earlier children as infants. A superlative musician whose singing was marked by grace, power and aristocratic mien, Alladiya Khan created a new style of music which came to be identified as the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana (out of the many styles which were represented in Jaipur in his time). Led by him, the gharana has given voice to hundreds of raga-s. His style of music “made even common raga-s appear more beautiful and full of unexpected twists and turns.... It was full of intricate but beautiful tana-s....” (B.R. Deodhar). The spirit and liveliness of Khan Saheb lives in the music-making of his legatees, though the style itself has undergone mutations in recent times.

Friday, 9 August 2019

E. Krishna Iyer

Birthdays & Anniversaries

9.8.1897 - 1968
Rare indeed have been the pioneers who, like E. Krishna Iyer, realised early enough the great value and importance of India’s art and culture,  as much as political freedom and economic  improvement, for national regeneration and welfare.

Few have slaved so selflessly with singleminded devotion as he, for the revival, revitalisation and [popularisation] of many of the forgotten arts even before the dawn of political freedom.

Many indeed have been the fields of Krishna Iyer’s activity; and yet he was able to achieve substantial results in whatever he undertook for the good of the country and its people.... He and his services  and  achievements  are valuable  assets to the country. They are a source of inspiration for others.

To read full story, visit sruti.com and buy Sruti 155

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Siddheswari Devi

Birthdays & Anniversaries

(1903-1977)
Siddheswari Devi enriched the Poorab ang of light classical music tradition she inherited by making the thumri as expansive as the khayal. She clothed the thumri with “a rare classical dignity even while retaining its tender lyricism Initially known as Akhtari Bai, her art earned for her the respect due to a begum sahiba. Her music carried the old world charm of the Lucknow court and, in the early years, “maddened her listeners with a certain intoxicating quality.” (Susheela Misra). Later, there was in it even more of an emotional intensity and a tinge of sadness as well. While she sang khayal-s, thumri-s and dadra-s as well, her singing of ghazals earned for her the title of Mallika-eGhazal, or Queen of Ghazal.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Mrs. YGP passes away


By Samudri

Rajalakshmi  Parthasarathy, popularly known as Mrs. YGP, Dean & Director of the PSBB group of schools, visionary educationist, and patron of art and culture, passed away in Chennai on 6 August 2019. She was 93. She was a multifaceted  woman who, apart  from playing a pioneering role in education, has left her mark in journalism, theatre, social causes,  restoration of temples, talent promotion, and the propagation of music, dance and theatre. She received several awards for her contribution to the fields of education and culture. Sruti too honoured her with the M. Venkatakrishnan Memorial Award for her role as  'sabhanayaka' of Bharat Kalachar. Braving her illness, she was an inspiring presence in Chennai art circles. Sruti conveys its heartfelt condolences to her family members.

(We published a cover story on Mrs. YGP in Sruti 371, August 2015)

Monday, 5 August 2019

Kumbakonam Rajamanickam Pillai

Birthdays & Anniversaries

The following article was researched and written by Senior Editor P.C. JAYARAMAN, with inputs from NARAYANAN PILLAI.

A few decades ago, when any two or more Carnatic music aficionados talked about topnotch violin accompanists, in most cases they would come up with just two names: Kumbakonam Rajamanickam Pillai and Mysore T. Chowdiah. These two were the undisputed leaders in the field and the others were far behind.

It is a hundred years since Rajamanickam Pillai was born and 28 years since he passed away. But the advanced in years among music buffs still fondly recall the days of Pillai and Chowdiah. This is not to say that violinists of their calibre are not around now; if anything, since the days of Chowdiah and Rajamanickam Pillai, there have been many who have brought to violin-playing great sensitivity and artistry.  But the two old timers are still admired for their commitment and ability to enhance the appeal of the concerts in which they played the role of sideman.

Rajamanickam Pillai was a remarkably able and astute accompanist, as well as a successful soloist. But his popularity rested not merely on his abilities with the violin but perhaps also on his other qualities—kindness,
magnanimity, generosity and friendliness—as wellas his wit. He was a largehearted teacher who trained many disciples. And he was a good friend to many.

To read full story, visit sruti.com and buy Sruti 170

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Nookala Chinna Sathyanarayana

                                                           Birthdays & Anniversaries

4.8.1923 - 11.7.2013
 To read full story, visit sruti.com and buy Sruti 56

Vellore Ramabhadran

Birthdays & Anniversaries

4.8.1929 - 27.2.2012

Born on 4 August 1929, Vellore Gopalachariar Ramabhadran was a celebrated name in percussion, a master of the mridangam.

Ramabhadran was fortunate to have been initiated into Carnatic music by his father, T.P. Gopalachariar, a konnakol artist and one of the founders of the Vellore Sangeeta Sabha which had conferred the title Sangeeta Ratnakara on Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar. Gopalachariar’s residence in Vellore was frequented by stalwarts such as Tiger Varadachariar, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Madurai Mani Iyer, GNB, M.S. Subbulakshmi and D.K. Pattammal, and it was during one such visit that Ramabhadran had the privilege of accompanying Tiger Varadachariar at an in-house concert.

Ramabhadran’s first stage performance was at the age of 14 when he accompanied the doyen Madurai Mani Iyer at the Jagannatha Bhaktha Sabha, Egmore, in 1943. This marked the beginning of an illustrious career spanning over six decades and as many generations. Ramabhadran’s gentle and effortless way of playing the mridangam came to be known as the “sarvalaghu” style.

To read full story, visit sruti.com and buy Sruti 180,182,381

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Sripada Pinakapani

Birthdays & Anniversaries


3.8.1913 - 1.3.2013
Dr. Sripada Pinakapani was recently named a Century-Maker in Carnatic Music by Sruti in its survey of Carnatic music during the 20th century. We now offer a two-part special feature on him highlighting his pursuit of music side by side with his study and practice of medicine and his phenomenal efforts to share his own knowledge and insights with his students and with the larger community of scholars and musicians through his books.

Language is the dress of thought, said a great thinker.

"Music is the dance of sound," is an one line self-portrait of my guru Dr. Sripada Pinakapani.

To many averagely informed Telugus, Tyagaraja and Carnatic music are synonymous. The corpus of the Music Trinity's compositions is the nectar of Carnatic classical music. Tradition, according to poet T.S. Eliot, is the "presentness of the past" and the tradition of Carnatic classical music is alive in India and elsewhere on this planet due to that great ambrosial legacy left by those great masters.

Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastry had their own distinct, individualistic styles. Be it the thought process, lyrical complexity, the musical orientation, or the choice of rhythm, each one of them had his own stamp.

To read full story, visit sruti.com and buy Sruti 193,194

Abraham Panditar

                                                               Birthdays & Anniversaries

3.8.1859 - 31.8.1919

Friday, 2 August 2019

Avinash Pasricha

Birthdays & Anniversaries


Performance has the quality of being transient. To capture the ephemeral moment of artistic expression into an eternal reflection requires an intelligent eye, a sensitive heart and a deep understanding of the arts. A name that has become synonymous with performing arts photography in the country is Avinash Pasricha. 


Pasricha believes that technical skill can be learnt but perceptiveness, empathy and affection are the core qualities that a photographer must nurture. True to his words, he lives by the same values, sharing fun-filled camaraderie and deep bonds with artists over the years. He has spent more than five decades capturing various moods, nuances and shades of classical music and dance. 

As the pioneering performance photographer of the country turns 80 on 2 August 2016, he shares a few frames from his extraordinary journey.

                                   To read full story, visit sruti.com and buy Sruti 383

Hemamalini Arni – To the manner born


By Sriram V

There are some people whom you meet just once and they leave an everlasting impression on you. Hemamalini Arni was one such – an unforgettable personality.

The year was 2017 and I suddenly found myself catapulted to Convenor of the Music Academy’s annual conference. That was Sangita Kalanidhi T.  Balasaraswathi’s centenary year, and my predecessor, before he demitted office, had fixed three programmes to commemorate her during the annual conference. The first had B. Balasubrahmaniyan of Wesleyan presenting on Bala’s music. The second was Aniruddha Knight presenting on her dance. The third, titled Remembering Bala, was by Hemamalini Arni.

“What was the need for three programmes on Bala?” grumbled some of those who always find something to grumble about in the Academy’s functioning. “And who is this lady anyway?” I must say I too did not have any idea beyond what my predecessor had told me – that she was one of Bala’s senior disciples and  a respected guru in Hyderabad. As the conference approached, I was quite apprehensive, as I did not know what to expect. And then, just a couple of weeks before the programme, I got an email from Hemamalini Arni, giving in impeccable English all her requirements – a stage for her accompanists who were to be seated to her right, a chair without arms for her, a stand mic, and space for her student Kiranmayee to dance. I replied that all would be in readiness and also suggested that she come a day in advance and see the stage for herself. She agreed.

Promptly at the agreed time on the day before her programme, a large car swept up the
Academy drive. In the rear was Hemamalini – a lady of impressive personality and a dignified demeanour, wearing a lovely burgundy silk saree. By her side was her husband with a walking stick and wearing a golf cap (or was it a deerstalker?). They belonged to a different day and age. I would learn later that he was a scion of the Arni Jagirdar family and maintained a website that in a humorous and self-deprecating way, had all family history in it. Hemamalini had a way of addressing me as Appa, which I found most endearing. We went to the mini hall, she expressed satisfaction at the arrangements and returned to the car. Just before she shut the door she turned around and said, “Appa, I need a favour. Sanjay Subrahmanyan is singing tonight here.”

I knew what was coming. And so I opened my mouth to give her the usual spiel about how the Academy never sells tickets for the big boss’ concerts and so it would be quite imp…

“No Appa,” she said firmly shutting me up even before I started. “Don’t tell me all that about how impossible it is all. I am in my mid 80s and my husband is in his 90s. We don’t want an upstairs ticket or something at the rear of the ground floor. I want something in front and I want to remember this concert. Forget my lecdem tomorrow. So please get it done. After all if you cannot who can? That is why you are Secretary are you not?” and with a deep chuckle she had withdrawn into the car and was gone.

I had of course fallen deeply in love with the lady, who so reminded me of my imperious grandmother. And so I moved heaven and earth and got her the tickets she wanted. The old couple was delighted and later declared that Sanjay had been superlative.

That night I read all I could find about her. She was the daughter of C.K.  Vijayaraghavan ICS and was therefore sister to Padmini Diwakar, a lady whom I knew and who was a disciple of Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer. The family home was a palatial one in R.A. Puram (since demolished) where her brother lived in seclusion, caring for several stray dogs. Hemamalini had danced for a film (Kannika 1947), the number being Natanam Adinar. A disciple of Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai, she later learnt from Bala and, after marriage, settled in Hyderabad where she ran her dance school. The dream girl of Hindi cinema was apparently named after her.

The morning of her lecdem saw Hemamalini Arni arrive in a black saree with gold border. She took her chair on stage and then held us spellbound for the next hour or so. She told us that she had danced for the Academy and the next day Bala had arrived at home with a cup as a gift and had begun teaching her music and dance. In Kutrala Kuravanji, Bala cast her as the princess while she played the Kurathi. (I later located a picture of this in a Tamil Isai Sangam souvenir and sent Hemamalini a copy). That morning, everyone in the Academy had tears flowing down their faces as Hemamalini took charge and sang, all the while doing abhinaya. Nobody noticed that it was an elderly lady seated on a chair. She brought several Bala favourites to life – Tiruvottriyur Tyagarajan, Athuvum solluval, Neela mayil vahanano, Teruvil varano (this was easily the highlight), Mogadochi and of course Krishna nee begane. Kiranmayee did the dancing. Every once in a while Hemamalini would break into an anecdote about Bala. Some were humorous, many moving in the extreme. 

A day previous to the lecdem, Hemamalini had said she would like it to be recorded and offered to pay for the same. I made arrangements, and as the presentation progressed realised what a treasure was being unveiled in our midst. I sent a note to the Academy office that we would bear the cost and give her a copy. In fact this led to all lecdems thereafter being video recorded and archived.

As she ended, we were at a loss for words. And then slowly the applause built up. People were on their feet clapping. Many rushed to the stage to take selfies. That afternoon, the experts committee declared that this was the best lecdem and none other than this could qualify for the prize. I saw Hemamalini and her husband Chandru off with many promises to visit them in Hyderabad but that was never to be. A week later I called her to inform her that she had won the lecdem prize. She laughed heartily, “What are you saying Appa? At my age!” Her sister Padmini represented her at the sadas.

The magic of that lecdem still lingers even though the presenter has left us.

See Sruti issue number 26 for an interview with Hemamalini Arni