Thursday, 28 March 2013

Dance like a pro

The Music Academy’s dance festival has been an important step forward in the conduct of dance performances in this part of the world. For starters, it is one of the few festivals offering the dancer sufficient remuneration to at least cover costs, and provide an aesthetically pleasing performance space with more than adequate facilities. The selection of performers too seems to be based on merit, with a proper system of gradation between morning and primetime dancers.

The audience actually pays good money to watch these programmes conducted with professional efficiency, and in turn gets to witness a reasonable range of genres of dance from different parts of India with a neat balance of solo and group offerings.

Sruti’s correspondents have criticisms and suggestions to make in this and future issues but there is consensus that despite its shortcomings, the series is one of the best things to happen to classical dance in Tamil Nadu in a long while. One of its best features has been the buzz around it, rarely matched outside of the Kalakshetra art festival in its heyday.

Kalakshetra has managed to hold on to much of its value system through the decades. Though some oldtimers may complain of falling standards, even its worst critics will agree that successive directors since the passing of Rukmini Devi Arundale have somehow managed to prevent serious inroads into the quality of instruction or dilution of the processes initiated by the founder.

Similar islands of excellence do exist elsewhere, and it would be unfair and condescending on our part to critique institutions with an all-knowing air of superior judgement, but the ground reality of the dance teaching and performance scene is by and large depressing. Most dancers are dancers not because they cannot help dancing or even because they see a good career in dancing (there is none), but because it is something some parents believe daughters should do as an additional qualification. (We are not going into the world of male dancers).

It is an expensive proposition, not least because dancers must pay organizers for opportunities to perform, because there is ostensibly no viable revenue model to support dance. Absurdly, there is steady demand for dance teachers because young people, mostly girls, still want to learn dance and every dancer who has paid her way through her performing career can for the first time earn some money through teaching dance.

Even with all the prevalent activity around it, and all the pious proclamations by all concerned about how divine this art is, the probability of randomly walking into a good dance programme is significantly lower than that of listening to a good music concert selected on a similar basis. However, thanks to the widespread emperor’s new clothes syndrome, the probability of said dance programme receiving a favourable review is however not significantly lower.

Going by the evidence all around us, it is difficult not to come to the sad conclusion that much ado is made about nothing in our dance world, where unlike in the sporting arena, there are no rules to identify winners or losers. Mediocrity often masquerades as merit, and both our public and the media are easily lulled into a false sense of complacency about the state of our dance. There seem to be no clearly defined criteria to determine what constitutes good dance, no yardsticks to measure excellence and no attempts to condemn poor taste. And if the foregoing is a load of nonsense, I shall be more than delighted to be persuaded otherwise by people who know better.

Golden oldies

Working on the cover story of the April issue of Sruti has been a rewarding experience. First, Vamanan, the author, sprang a pleasant surprise last month by announcing the completion of the story, which we thought had got hopelessly stuck as some stories tend to despite the best of intentions and efforts.

In his inimitable, forthright, sometimes ornate style, he has strung together a credible story of a film actor and storyteller who is also a first rate aesthete with a deep appreciation of music and dance.

While Kothamangalam Subbu was a master of the folk art of villupattu and a capable exponent of Harikatha, it was his enormous success with writing a novel on the intertwining lives of a bharatanatyam dancer and nagaswara vidwan, that indubitably enhanced his claims to a place in the annals of classical music and dance. With Tillana Mohanambal, he came up with a cult classic of the genre, no less.

It was while trying to source photographs for the story that we initially thought we had run into some reluctance on the part of the family to cooperate. How wrong we would be to come to any such conclusion was emphasised by the warmth and friendship of Subbu’s two sons who came over with the images—and anecdotes about their father and his associates.

From the conversations a picture of a caring family man and a nationalist with a highly evolved aesthetic sensibility emerged—qualities that made him a sensitive artist in his chosen field of writing and performing arts.

The family’s collection of Subbu’s works and related photographs and illustrations naturally led us to a treasure trove of line drawings and paintings by Gopulu—a legend of Tamil journalism—which adorned the pages of the weekly Ananda Vikatan in its prime.

The older son Viswanathan, now approaching 80, is a devout follower of his father’s art and has kept villupattu alive with regular performances, including his own additions to Subbu’s repertoire. The younger son Srinivasan has been the conscientious collector of Subbu memorabilia in the family.

What followed when we decided to seek Gopulu’s permission to reproduce some of his brilliant illustrations for Tillana Mohanambal, was another experience of being enveloped in the embrace of old-world courtesy and generosity.

Gopulu—or S. Gopalan to give his real name—lives in an independent bungalow in a quiet residential neighbourhood of Chennai, now retired from his life’s work. When he suffered a stroke some years ago, he taught himself to draw and paint with his left hand, but eventually recovered fully. He did continue to pursue his passion for some years, but now he is too frail to continue, though his mind is alert and his eyes are kind and welcoming. “It’ll be my pleasure; please use my pictures any way you want. You are doing good work,” he told us.

It was time for some nostalgia, and Gopulu remembered the time he spent with SS Vasan and his colleagues at Vikatan, including Subbu. “Tillana Mohanambal was his dream novel for a long time. A brief hint of the story first appeared in Gemini’s 1950s blockbuster Chandralekha. His stories flowed from him in a spontaneous gush. They benefited from Vasan’s editorial skills.” 

Meeting the Subbu family and Gopulu has been one of the high points of Sruti’s recent journey.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Sumesh Narayanan

Young voices
(Conversations with emerging artists)

By Sushma Somasekharan

Photograph by Sharan Sivakumar
Sumesh S Narayanan (20), a young and vibrant mridangam artist, has been under the tutelage of Sri Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam since he was 8 years old. He had his arangetram in 2005 with the late Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan as the chief guest of the evening. He won the Best Mridangist Award for his junior time slot at The Music Academy in December Music Season 2012. It is hard to not be impressed by his earnest answers; they show his genuine passion for the art form and his desire to appreciate music without letting any distractions affect his approach to it.

When was your first break?

I got my first ‘break’ when I played for Bombay Jayashri Akka in August 2012. It was a concert held in a school. I received a call at 7.30 am from one of Jayashri Akka’s students, Poornima, about a concert for SPIC MACAY and I agreed to play, assuming that it was for Poornima. She then said, ‘Okay Sumesh, I will let Jayashri Akka know that you’re free on this date to perform with her.’ I was shocked! I asked her repeatedly, ‘Are you sure this concert is not for you and it is for Akka?’

It was only when Akka called me again for a concert at Meenakshi College and we performed for an audience of about 1,000 people that I knew for sure that I was not in a dream. I have performed with her on a number of occasions since.

Any special memories?

One of the most memorable experiences has been performing with Akka and Flautist Ronu Majumdar Dada for Friday Review November Fest last year. I have been a great fan of Ronu Dada’s music and I never thought I would have the opportunity to perform with him. We presented the show in Kochin, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Coimbatore and Kuwait; we are presenting it at Dubai next week. If not for Akka, I would not have such memorable experiences and learning opportunities at such an early stage of my career.

Do you ever get to choose the main artist you want to accompany?

Currently, I play for almost any artist who approaches me. I respect that someone has heard of my talent and is approaching me with a concert opportunity. However as an artist grows, he may become selective in his choices. This is because the artist has to aspire to grow musically and hone his talent and in my opinion, one of the most direct ways to achieve that is when artists challenge each other on stage.

There is not much money in being a percussionist in Carnatic music. Do you agree?

Yes, I agree, but I won’t make a big deal out of it. My main priority now is to expand my knowledge and explore different opportunities. God has blessed me with good familial and financial support. Hence, I am able to enjoy music for what it is and not be concerned with the financial aspect of it as yet.

What I learnt from my guru is not just mridangam skills but many life lessons too. His road to success was not an easy one. When he initially moved to Chennai from Tiruvarur to pursue a career in mridangam, no one was willing to support him as no one knew who he was. He struggled the initial few years to achieve the great levels of success that he enjoys now. There have been occasions when he travelled out of Chennai for concerts at reputed festivals and the lead artist paid him only a fraction of the total fee received.

What do you think about some vidwans not accompanying women?

Artists have their own reasons as to why they make such a choice. Personally, I would not like to differentiate between female and male artists. My main objective is to be a good musician and restricting myself as such will not allow me to be so. I want to be able to explore music with good musicians regardless of their gender.

You are involved in a lot of fusion work and explore different genres of percussion. Do you try to bring in those influences when playing the mridangam?

As much as I admire other styles of world percussion and spend a lot time scrutinising them and appreciating the nuances, I do not feel comfortable bringing in influences of other percussion when I play the mridangam. I guess I am a purist in that aspect; I do not accept kalappadam in Carnatic music. Play a tabla like a tabla. Play a mridangam like a mridangam. Why mix both?

What do you expect from your career?

I want to grow as a musician. I am also a guitarist and a composer. In fact, I recently scored the music for a documentary called ‘Magical Madurai’ which is going to be screened at a film festival in Brazil. That was my first step towards getting my compositions recognised. In a few years, if everyone recognises me as a composer and not as a mridangist, I would still be happy. My main objective is to always be involved in music and for my musical talent to be recognised.

Sushma Somasekharan is a young vocalist

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Remembering Manna Srinivasan

By Gita Sankaran

“A life that touches others oes on forever.” One such life was celebrated by family and friends in the Remembrance Meet for Manna Srinivasan held on 2nd March at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha’s Nalli Gana Vihar hall in Chennai.

N. (Manna) Srinivasan’s elder brother N. Balasubramanian welcomed the gathering and described Manna’s deep interest in Carnatic music, dance and other art forms which had surfaced even at a very early age. He also touched upon his literary skills and recalled the numerous unfinished projects and studies that Manna had on hand and regretted that “unfortunately the heart did not oblige with the demands of the head”.

Bharatanatyam exponent and teacher Sudharani Raghupathy who presided over the meeting, shared fond memories of her first meeting with Manna. She described Manna as “a personification of anonymity”. She spoke of how he was always ready to lend a helping hand to artists, his humility, and his desire to stay behind the scenes rather than in the limelight.

Y. Prabhu, secretary of Sri Krishna Ghana Sabha, the next speaker, referred to Manna as the south’s “ambassador to Delhi” and said that Manna will always be remembered for his role as a “bridge” between the north and the south, for “exporting” south Indian music and dance to the North and for playing a major role in lessening the divide between the two.

S. Janaki, Executive Editor of Sruti, traced Manna’s long association with the magazine. In a speech marked by humour and warmth she spoke of his visits to the office complete with his trademark bag of goodies, and acknowledged his contribution to the magazine in various capacities – Delhi Correspondent & Representative, head of Delhi Bureau, Roving Editor, Contributing Editor and Senior Associate. She narrated how he had been a great friend, adviser and father figure for the Sruti parivaar for almost three decades.

The qualities that endeared him to artists and to friends alike were enumerated by A. Natarajan, former Director of Doordarshan Kendra, Chennai and a close friend of Manna. He said Manna’s selfless desire to promote art for art’s sake, his ability and drive to research any topic in depth and his willingness to help artists in every possible way, will always be remembered.

Carnatic violinist G.J.R. Krishnan took us down memory lane with nostalgic memories of the unique bond between Manna and vidwan Lalgudi Jayaraman who gave him the name ‘Manna’ – “a godsend” for artists visiting Delhi.

Wrapping up the first half of the evening, M.N. Srinivasan, on behalf of the family, thanked the speakers and all the guests who graced the occasion.

The second half of the evening had a dance offering by Aparna Seetharaman, Manna's niece. She dedicated the recital to the memory of her uncle who had played a significant role in her growth as a performing artist. The programme conducted by her gurus Shanta and V.P. Dhananjayan with live music was a fitting tribute to Manna Srinivasan who approached art with so much energy and enthusiasm.


By Arundhathi Krishnan

After the conclusion of the Madras music season, IIT Madras Music Club has been host to Youthfest 2013, its annual series for the up and coming faces of Carnatic music. This year’s line-up included vocalists Ashwath Narayanan, Sriranjani Santhanagopalan, and Malavika Sundar and violinist Shreya Devnath. In quick succession followed two Hindustani concerts in February-a vocal performance by Omkar Dadarkar and a sarod recital by Abir Hossain.

Music Club celebrated its ruby anniversary a few years ago, and continues to conduct concerts in the sprawling IIT Madras campus through most of the year. The academic year typically begins with Clasfest, a grand series of concerts by senior artists. The rest of the year sees two concerts per month, by a melange of artistes, young and old, vocalists and instrumentalists, from Chennai and elsewhere. Over the last two years, Hindustani concerts have also been organised and received excellent feedback.

Music Club concerts are fairly well-attended, principally by students and faculty, but also some outsiders, for few halls in the city can boast of an ambience and sound system as good as that of the Central Lecture Theatre, where concerts are typically held.

Prof. T T Narendran, alumnus of the institute and Professor, Department of Management Sciences, as well as vainika and music connoisseur, has been the President of Music Club for several years now. Prof. TTN or ‘Mama’, as he is almost universally referred to, remains as enthusiastic today about the Club’s programmes as in the days he was a student volunteer. Mama and a small group of students share the work of planning and organising concerts: contacting artistes, booking the use of the CLT (which hosts a number of institute activities), arranging for the transportation and stay of the artistes, negotiating with sponsors, creating campus and off- campus publicity, down to the little details of arranging for coffee and so forth—in short, regular sabha work!

The smooth running of sabhas and canteens would be impossible without support staff. Mohan ‘Anna’ (a title which belies his age) has been assisting Music Club throughout its existence in setting up the stage for concert and wrapping up after. This is an insufficient description of the help he renders Music Club; his presence will be very greatly missed when he retires from service later this year.

Today’s Club concerts are perhaps held in more sophisticated premises with better technical support, but the yesteryear Music Club concerts saw some of the biggest names in Carnatic music perform, beginning with inaugural concerts by Ramnad Krishnan and Lalgudi Jayaraman. What has not changed, however, is the Club’s commitment to upholding the spirit of classical music, encouraging innovations within the framework of classicism, giving promising young musicians a platform, while also exposing audiences to living legends. Many of today’s star musicians were once Youthfest performers and are more than happy to return to perform in the organisation that helped shape them.

Music Club concerts provide entertainment as well as much food for thought for the scholars who attend, many of whom are students of music, some performers, even. Post concert discussions and ‘jam sessions’ are common in Tiffanys, the campus’s equivalent of a sabha canteen.

There have been many unforgettable concerts amongst the club’s programmes. Two in recent times will forever remain in my mind. One was a vocal concert by T N Seshagopalan, with a memorable Giripai nelakonna Ramuni’. At the other, a nagaswaram concert by Vyasarpadi Kothandaraman, the artistes were delayed by heavy traffic, and there were perhaps fewer than ten in the audience. But as Kothandaraman played the first phrase of a brief Bhairavi alapana and followed it up with the ata tala varnam, and a spectacular concert unfolded, concluding past 10 pm, the very purpose of the Club’s existence seemed fulfilled.

(The author is a research scholar in maths and a Carnatic vocalist).

Monday, 18 March 2013

A celebration of Bhadrachala Ramadas


By Ranjani Sivakumar Siddareddy

Takkuvemi manaku ramundokkadunduvaraku!

This song will definitely find an important place in the nostalgia trips of those who grew up in the 1980s.Most of us then owned a copy of this Bhadrachala Ramadasu cassette; from which we netrue-ed them all, down until the musical interludes between their charanams. What many of us did not know back then, was that this prolific vageyyakara’s name was really Kancherla Gopanna.

 We came across his name again, on our school trips to the Golconda Fort, in Hyderabad. And as we took a guided tour of the fort’s jail gleaning his story, our focus fell upon the verses of the songs we knew so well. The verses Ikshvaku kula tilaka ika naina balukavu ramachandra nannu rakshimpa kunnanu rakshaku levarinka Ramachandra took a whole new turn after this trip.

Those of us who continued our musical education learnt about the deep impact that this composer made on the life of Tyagaraja through kritis like Kaligiyunte kada which highlight Narada, Prahlada, Parasara and Rama Dasa as the great devotees of Rama. The lines Ramadasu valenaite Sita Bhama mandalinchunu nito “from Emi dova palkumayikanu ne and “Dhiruḍau Ramadasuni bandhamu dirchinadi vinnanura” from Ksheersagara sayana, lay more emphasis on this fact.

 The commemorative five-day Bhakta Ramadasu jayanti - prayukta vageyyakara utsavam conducted from Feb 12-16, in Bhadrachalam, allows us to put all this learning into perspective. The date is set to coincide with his birth star - the Purvabhadra nakshatram of the Magha maasam.

Adigo Bhadradri Gautami, idigo choodandi

The festival begins at the crack of dawn with prayers being offered to the river Godavari.A processsion of bhaktas, pujaris, rasikas and musicians follow the pallaki of the portraits of Bhakta Ramadasu and the musical trinity, around this little town, their ears ringing with the Vedapathanam by children from the local Vedapathasala.The procession progresses with the nagara sangeetam and culminates in a grand abhishekam to the Ramadasu vigraham in the Sree Sita Ramachandra Swamy temple situated on a hillock.

With mangala vadyam, the Sita Rama kalyanotsava murtis are brought into the Chitrakoota Mandapam, lying at the foot of this hillock.The curtain raiser to the musical event, is the ghoshti ganam of the nava ratnams of this great composer which draws a huge crowd of musicians and devotees alike. The akhandam runs for five days with many eminent and enthusiastic musicians from all over India, singing the kritis of Bhadrachala Ramadasu and other vageyyakaras.

The meticulous way in which this festival is organised requires special mention: while the committed team caters to the food-stay and travel arrangements of all the artistes taking part in it, the website - - clearly specifies the schedule and documents the whole event with photos/ audio and video recordings, which are then broadcast through popular music-bhakti channels.The website also provides notations in English, of the navaratna kritis of this composer, an initiative of the Malladi Brothers Sriramprasad and Ravikumar.

Now into its seventh year, this musical festival, led by Nedunuri Krishnamurthy, has grown significantly, attracting a large number of rasikas and artistes.

Rama dasa mrudula hrudaya tamarasa nivasaya swami Bhadra girivaraya sarva mangalam

(The author is a young Carnatic vocalist).

Raghavendra Raja

Young voices
(Conversations with emerging artists)

By Sushma Somasekharan

Vocalist Raghavendra Raja (RR as he is known in the music fraternity) hails from an illustrious music family. Son of well-known vocalist Padma Chandilyan and mridangam virtuoso Srimushnam Raja Rao, he unsurprisingly won the Jaya TV Carnatic Music Idol award in its second season. RR speaks about his music with ardour, and the confidence he exudes in his answers is inspiring. A sought-after artist now, RR is creating waves in the Carnatic music world and urban youth.

Raghavendra Raja spoke to Sushma Somasekharan recently. Excerpts from the conversation.
Was pursuing music as a full-time profession a personal choice or were you forced into it?
I was never forced to pursue music; it was definitely my own decision to pursue it professionally. Many people go in search of music, but I was fortunate to have it handed down to me without having to seek it. I was surrounded by music; my mother is always singing at home. People know my father as a great mridangam artist but he’s just as talented as a vocalist. Being brought up in a musical family, it was only natural for me to imbibe that interest and develop my talent.
After graduating, I was still in two minds about pursuing a career in music. I went to Bombay to work there, but after three months, I knew I had had enough. I came back to Chennai to pursue music and there has been no looking back since.
What made you do so?
Apart from my love for music, I feel that I have a great responsibility as a musician. My parents handed this sacred art to me with much care and I feel the responsibility to hand it down to my next generation just the way it has been passed down to me. I feel a sense of duty towards people, society and the nation. There is nothing more gratifying than sharing the joy of music with everyone and knowing that you have played a role in preserving a culture and heritage.
Could you not have achieved that even if you had an office job?
There is absolutely no way I could have done it if I was not a full time musician. My father always tells me, “You have to think about your music for twice as many hours as you would spend singing.” My intention is not just to perform; it is to explore every dimension of music and that can only be done if I give it as many hours as I would give a day job in the office or even more!
What do you think of innovating and bringing changes to Carnatic music kutcheris?
If you are asking me about attempting a new approach to singing a raga, I think it has already been done before. In one concert,  I attempted a particular prayogam in Kambhoji alapana and thought to myself, ‘Wow, that was something new and it sounded great.’ But just a few days after that, I realised it had already been sung by a yesteryear stalwart. And that was not the only time something like that happened to me. Our legends have handled our ragas in every way possible.
I think it is only natural for Carnatic music to evolve over the years. A huge change took place when Sri Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar introduced the present concert structure. It took a while for the listeners then to get accustomed to the change. Likewise, listeners may not embrace any change immediately now as they have been used to  a particular format all these years. Before long the listeners themselves will seek change and welcome innovation. However, as I am in the process of exploring my musical identity now, I will adhere to mastering what I have learnt before attempting new approaches on stage.
Carnatic music means ‘Old Music’ to me, and going with that definition, I am most comfortable singing old songs,  written before my time. In my opinion, there are still many old songs which have not been sung in detail in concerts, such as the 8th century Tirupaavai, and 15th century Tirupugazh. With all due respect to the new age composers, unless there is something uniquely special about the songs composed now, I would prefer to explore the works composed years before my time.
Tell us, who is Sean Rolden?
 (Laughs) Everyone seems to be more interested to know about who Sean Rolden is. Well, I have another identity known as ‘Sean Rolden’, the artist who aims to fuse classical, folk, country, jazz and other genres together to produce music that will appeal to the urban young in Chennai.
Does this side not affect your Carnatic persona?
Definitely not. Every one of us has a side that would love to break the rules, be free and create something out of the ordinary. I have directed that energy towards writing songs and exploring different genres of music. This side of me is distinct from the Carnatic singer Raghavendra Raja.
Where do you see yourself in a few years from now? Do you think you will become a successful Carnatic musician?
Carnatic music is my first love and will always be my first priority. I have no doubt that I will get to the main slot of the Chennai sabhas one day, when people will have to pay for tickets to listen to my concerts. I am already getting there. But none of that matters to me; my main aim is to ensure that the audience will feel that my music is well worth their time and has made a difference to their lives. That is when I will consider myself a successful musician.
(Sushma Somasekharan is a young Carnatic vocalist)

Winds of change

By Meena Banerjee

Widespread illiteracy amongst North Indian artist clans, trapped in the socially and politically disturbed medieval period, did away with the vital Indian tradition of questioning in order to attain knowledge. Asking questions was banned and blind faith became an unchallenged requisite. That this trend is still existent became apparent during the seminar on ‘Music Performance and Musicology’ and ‘Dhrupad – Its Future’, organised at the Experimental Theatre of National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), Mumbai (Jan 18-20). The Indian Musicological Society (IMS) and ITC Sangeet Research Academy (West), in collaboration with Music Forum, Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and NCPA, very cleverly merged these two important seminars that hammered each other in more than one way.

It turned out to be a classy clash of deep-rooted faith versus logical thinking; of mythical love for music versus scientific research; of passion versus analysis; of music as a performing art versus musicology. And under its shadow, three days’ brainstorming sessions strove to spell out ways and means to pull dhrupad out of its present ‘less popular than khayal’ status, albeit without acknowledging or pinpointing the reasons behind its decline. In fact, the word ‘popular’ was avoided at all costs because film music, more than khayal, tops the chart of popularity! Participating dhrupad exponents like the Gundecha Brothers (Bhopal), Uday Bhawalkar (Pune), Ritwik Sanyal (Benares), Prashant Mallick (Delhi) and Kolkata’s very own Falguni Mitra apparently resigned themselves to the prevailing state of affairs and yet remained pledged to the cause of propagating this majestic idiom at all costs.

Role of musicology

Even in this era of science and technology musicology is a subject scoffed at by most ‘gharanedar’ practitioners of music who inherited music by birth or emulated their gurus without question. Music according to them is ‘karant (practical) vidya’. But despite such a fanatical approach, music has kept changing its stylistic approach; probably because these devotees of music blindly emulated the ‘daring innovations for the sake of beauty’ by their mentors; and also because some practitioners, who hailed from different backgrounds, carved out their own path, and while doing so inadvertently introduced changes.

This was apparent in ‘Pure song, pure raga or pure sound? Ideologies of listening and performance in contemporary dhrupad’ – the first and the most ‘provocative’ paper presented by Sumitra Ranganathan (University of California, Berkerley). Hers was the only paper that candidly discussed and analysed the present scenario, with lots of valid points. She refused to accept the new avatar of dhrupad that is more focused on anibaddha (free flowing) alap with least respect for the ‘pada’ (literary and composed segment known as dhruva and nibaddha) as opposed to the olden form of dhrupad. She also flouted the myth that one can identify a raga by listening to its tonic – a single note; and established that a swara is revealed with the help of several notes in the form of a phrase. The single note, without the movements, colours and shades of other notes, cannot reveal a raga. The same logic works behind the stylised movements of the banis which demand longer phrases showcasing meend (glide), gamaka (oscillation) and ullamphan (jumps) to establish themselves.

Shivkumar Sharma, who fashioned his own style and brought the santoor to the concert level, inaugurated this three-day international seminar with a short, crisp speech. He did not mince his words when he said, “Performing musicians were never told to read scriptures; they didn’t know the correct bandish; even the name of the ragas were mispronounced; they were told ‘Hamare gharane mein aisa hi hota hai’ (this is how our gharana dictates).” Erudite vocalist Dr. Vidyadhar Vyas, while acting as a moderator, explained, “Art came first; thinking minds analysed its ‘sukh’ (bliss) aspect and defined the aesthetics to attain it in ‘sastras’ (musicological scriptures). Performance always precedes musicology but after emulating the guru the disciple needs to innovate. That is when sastra becomes indispensable. Even the so-called illiterates ‘understood’ its value.” This viewpoint, with the pointed past tense kept echoing all through the seminar.

“India once gifted sastras on every subject: art, literature, economics, war, even sex. Why can’t pundits pen sastra anymore? Foreigners are doing research on Indian music though they are not familiar with the dialects – the language of our music. Why can’t music colleges produce performers or musicologists?” asked an exasperated Ashok Vajpeyi, a ‘passionate music lover’ and a path-breaking visionary who, in the capacity of a senior civil servant, founded Dhrupad Kendra, Bhopal, with just five students and two gurus (Moinuddin and Fariduddin Dagar). He pointed out, “A future does not mean that ‘it is the same’. We live in parampara which keeps changing; and that’s how it survives. Dhrupad’s most important achievement is the abstraction of human voice,” and he had solid reasons behind this statement: Umakant and Ramakant Gundecha, along with Uday Bhawalkar, three students of the first batch of Dhrupad Kendra, who became the top ranking dhrupad exponents of their generation, have actually imbibed the techniques of the veena to a great extent and are working towards this ‘abstraction’ in alap, without the verbal or visual images, to make it more contemplative and accessible to listeners from all over the globe.

Paper presentation

The trio, along with Prof. Ritwik Sanyal, very eloquently discussed the journey of dhrupad from temples to royal courts that also signified its journey from ritualistic singing to secular rendition with change in its contents. Prof. Shruti Sadolikar Katkar (Lucknow), a renowned khayal singer with a deep insight into Haveli sangeet, highlighted the impact of the latter’s spirit of total surrender on Indian classical music in general and dhrupad in particular. Founded on the ‘pushti marga’ (the path seeking nourishment of the soul) of Vallabhacharya, Haveli sangeet revolves around the daily chores of young Krishna. Ragas belonging to different times of the day were encapsulated within its literature and gradually took the form of dhrupad.

Prof. Richard Widdess (Head, Department of Music, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, UK) and Dr. Puru Dadheech (Indore) discussed the origin of dhrupad at length. Dr. Dadheech also established that dhrupads are older than the times of Raja Mansingh Tomar. The term dhruva is actually nothing but the refrain or sthayi of a pada; the first vaggeyakara (lyricist-composer) was Jayadeva, who marked his padas with raga and tala. This theory may change the total perspective of dhruva-pada or dhrupad – as every song reverts to its refrain.

Ganesh Kumar (Mumbai) drew similarities between dhrupad and Carnatic composition singing. Since he is very much into Marathi abhangs as well, Kumar also traced dhrupad elements in this idiom of Maharashtra. Frankly, Bengali keertan can be termed as the softer, female version of dhrupad with all its stylistic features; but this topic was not taken up.

F. Nalini Delvoye (France) discussed ‘the emergence of dhrupad in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh’, Dr. Dadheech threw light on ‘Dhrupad in the reign of Mansingh Tomar’ and Katherine Butler Schofield (UK) talked about Delhi’s Kalawant Biradari.

Instrumentalists like Manik Munde (pakhawaj), Pushparaj Koshthi (surbahar) and Nancy Lesh Kulkarni (cello) discussed how they adapted this genre in their respective instruments. The USA-born cellist also spoke about her transformation from a Western musician to a dhrupad music player and supported it with a wonderful demonstration.


Since the classical music of northern India, unlike its Carnatic counterpart, does not go hand in hand with musicology, the discussions, as usual, invited arguments. And the question of banis topped the list. Young Prashant Mallick (Delhi) belonging to the Darbhanga gharana, focused on the Khandar bani that lays great stress on powerful gamakas, including the ‘toneless’ ones. On the other hand all the four main banis were discussed and eloquently demonstrated by Falguni Mitra (the Bettiah gharana with alapchari of the Dagar gharana). A proficient and probably only exponent of all the four banis, he forcefully propagated their aesthetic use in dhrupad renditions. According to him the compositions of each bani display a particular gait, a unique arrangement of lyrics, notes patterns, tempo, and a distinctive style of enunciation. These compositions or dhruvapadas, known as dhrupad now, encapsulate the fundamental aspects of aesthetics and grammar and work as the reference point for a raga and its lakshanas (features). These influence the alap segment as well. Their literary and melodic sanctity, therefore, needs to be protected without gimmicks like toneless gamakas, mutilation of lyrics for the sake of meaningless bol-baant (division of lyrics for rhythm play) and exhibitionism.

Fariduddin Dagar had a totally different viewpoint – so commonly seen in the gharanedar clan of yore who see music as their religion and, therefore, protect it beyond the reach of ‘chawanni-athanni ke (worthless)’ musicologists who only know how to play with mere terms. Flanked by the Gundecha Brothers and Uday Bhawalkar, his renowned, less rigid but devoted disciples, he challenged the authenticity of such ideas as the ‘importance of sahitya in singing a raga’ and refused to accept the role of bani-reflecting compositions (padas). He also undermined the importance of lyrics-based Haveli sangeet and passionately asserted that dhrupad came into existence even before the temples did! One was tempted to ask these respected dhrupad exponents that since they have mastered the art of producing soul-stirring melody and emulated the techniques of the veena to a great extent, would they like to rewrite the history of dhrupad, clearly a pada-based idiom, with just syllables like te, ta, ra, na only and do away with its rich, tangible literary treasure, further highlighted by the distinct character of banis?

Young voices

Mitra and Ranganathan (guru and disciple) received inadvertent support from Kaustuv Kanti Ganguli, a young IIT-ian and disciple of Ajoy Chakrabarty combining science and music, who worked extensively on glides, one of the special features of a ‘single’ (?) note (Ontology Interface) and, based on that, explored the Kafi Thaat (on the opening day, 18 January). While ‘Tiruppugazh Analysis - A Mathematical Perspective of the Meter’ by Rajesh Iyer and ‘Role of Indian Classical Music in Drug De-addiction’ by R. Aruna Shri focused on less explored science-based avenues, Bisakha Goswami’s paper threw light on ‘Anandasanjeevana’ – a compilation of textual musicology belonging to the medieval period. Among others were Vibhuti Sharma (Understanding music-making in a community with Sidi drumming as a case study) and Joanna Heath (Spontaneity in Mizo Christian Worship).

Optimistic plans

According to Dr. Suresh Goyal, Special Secretary of External Affairs, and Director General, ICCR, who gave an inaugural speech (on 19 January), “Dhrupad is rarely promoted. Yet there is this optimistic symptom that more and more students, including women, are showing interest.” The concluding session, moderated by Arvind Parikh discussed some concrete plans in this direction and urged different institutions to join hands to promote and propagate dhrupad as “Dhrupad is one of the crowning glories of Indian civilization. Great music, despite being located in time, addresses eternity. The timelessness has to be worked upon with great skill. Dhrupad is changing. This must be taken into account along with the memory of the past and imagination for the future”, said Ashok Vajpei.

Monday, 11 March 2013


Sruti fiction
By Sharan Mamidipudi

He sang in the morning, sang to the dying stars; he sang to his whitewashed walls, his own voice bouncing off them; he sang for his morning coffee, one-and-a-half tea-spoons of sugar; he sang for spring, for leaves that twirled and girls who flowered with the blooming chrysanthemums; second-most-of-all, he sang because he could unite, even if only in short, elevating bursts, music’s sacred triumvirate: shruti, laya and raga; but most-of-all, he reflected, he sang to communicate joy.

He sang for free. It cheapens your music, they warned him, those Sabha owners, his ‘well-wishers’. People will tire of you, they cried. In response, he let loose four typical phrases in Todi. They shook their heads in appreciation, clicking their tongues, beckoning imaginary birds. ‘People have sung the same phrases for centuries’, he then said, ‘have you tired of them yet?’ Most of them made as if they understood, but he knew from the looks on their faces that they didn’t—their eyes seemed to humour him, like he was an old man lecturing them on the benefits of walking barefoot.

For twenty-two years, he had sung across the peninsula, often travelling six-hours second-class between successive performances, changing into a fresh veshti backstage, powdering his neck and smearing, in haste, a handful of vibhuti over his forehead. He sang for his audience, picking ragas and songs based on the demographics of his crowd. Kanakadasa stormed into a concert in Shimoga and, when in Thoothukudi, if a Dikshitar kriti was the Sun—the centre around which the rest of the concert pivoted—then a song each by Bharatiyar and Umaru Pulavar were twin moons, one resplendent, the other an inspired apparition.

His grandfather was close to the Wodeyar kings, a minister of some sort. His father ran the family trust with the tremendous wealth his grandfather had amassed, feeding the poor and funding the education of the children of the neglected. His father encouraged him to sing, to see music as an entity in itself, beyond the maya of existence. Until he was twelve, his father pushed him to sing and learn, and he did, sometimes grudgingly. Then, one morning, he instinctively shut his eyes as he practised and sang Mayatita swaroopini.
He opened his eyes to see his father and mother sitting in front of him, watching him intently; his mother’s face mingled contentment and tears, brimming with unspoken pride, his father smiled like he knew. Three full hours had dissolved in one raga, the passing of time had never tasted so sweet. There is Maya, he declared to his father, beyond the Malavagowla.
Ever since, music was the language he thought in, the force that allowed him to navigate the prosaic and scale the pristine. Sometimes, music let him blur the boundaries between the mundane and the magnificent.

And within him, unknown and unacknowledged, rested a quiet pride, not so much in his art as his philanthropy. He threw his doors open to the public. Anyone, beggar or businessman, rasika or novice, could walk in when he practised. Wherever he sang, even at the Academy, no tickets were sold. One year, the Academy, citing rules, disallowed him from performing—this created a storm of gargantuan proportions in his microscopic music circles and the suspension was revoked. As the years rolled on, he lived off his grandfather’s dwindling wealth and his fans’ goodwill.

Within him, he felt, was something that transcended price-tags, to put a value on it would be to de-value it; and to share it without restrictions was service. Award citations extolled his selfless heart, a newspaper dubbed him ‘the voice for the voiceless’; in an interview once, he called himself the ‘servant of God and of the people’.

That morning, he wanted water. Sixteen minutes into Abheri, his throat itched. He called out to his wife who didn’t respond, but vessels clanged in the kitchen, water gushed from an open tap. Water. He vented his frustration on Abheri, letting out a volcanic burst of swaras, but Abheri wouldn’t get angry, it wasn’t in her nature. This caused him more agitation, he slapped his thigh and broke into another volley of frenetic phrases, introducing the Shuddha dhaivata—Abheri swung from calm to melancholy and tended dangerously towards violence. One manic phrase landed furiously on the tarasthayi shadja. Water, it demanded.

His wife appeared finally, a steel tumbler in hand, and said, softly: Don’t be so harsh.

‘Harsh?’, he said, working himself into a rage, Abheri fled from his system, music hid in a corner, as he hissed, in a whisper that evoked the sharp edge of a knife: ‘People are sitting here listening’

There were six people in his spacious, sparse music room, one that his grandfather built and where his father conducted his weekly meetings with the directors of his now-dead trust; they were all dressed in crisply ironed shirts in varying shades of white, and veshtis, regulars at his morning practice sessions. Taking them in in one sweeping glance, he returned to look at his wife, who still clasped the tumbler in her hand, and said:

‘You owe it to them to make sure I have my water on time, not to me’

His usually patient wife, perhaps stung by Abheri’s travails, flung the water at his face.

‘To them?’, she asked, laughing angrily, ‘You do not sing for them, they can live without your music. As can everyone else. When you sit on your pedestal and demand that entry be free and open, how many poor walk in? Can a shirtless man wearing only torn pants, dark as the night and smelling of the sweat of toil, walk into the hallowed air-conditioned chambers of your Academy? Two streets away from this house and this hall with its chandeliers and windows the size of elephants, in tents lit only by kerosene lamps, lives are birthed, lived and ended: none of those lives are touched by you or your music’

‘You do not even know of their existence’, she spat, ‘yet you pass by them every second day’

You sing because you can’, she said finally, ’and that is all there is to it’

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

A Concert in Indraloka

Sruti fiction

By V Shankaranarayanan

Date: 10-Aug-2024
Place: NASA Headquarters, Washington DC
Project: Historic Manned Mission to Mars

Only a few hours left for the launch of Voyager XX. The chief engineers are visibly anxious in the control room working on the last leg of the mission, a simulated trial run before the final launch of their space shuttle to Mars. The entire world is eagerly looking forward to witnessing a historic expedition, the most ambitious project in the history of mankind, a manned mission to Mars scheduled in three months. The entire team ranging from astronauts to project delegates to directors to government officials has been working relentlessly to make this happen.

Among them, is Vicky (Vignesh Ramanathan), a software architect for the launch control systems. Vicky like his other determined project-mates has been leading a life of a recluse, with hardly any contact with the outside world.

Today he looks visibly tense sipping away from his cup of black coffee from time to time. He is constantly checking the monitors to ensure all systems are working well and as planned, while in sync with his teammates for updates.

In all this commotion, he is seen periodically on clandestine phone conversations.

Date: 10-Aug-2024
Place: S’cape Corporation, NYC

Today is S’cape Corporation’s fifth anniversary. Situated along the busy hub of the New York Trade Centre, the office paints a gleeful picture. A leader in the virtual tourism business, this relatively young company comprising a small but enterprising team has enough and more reasons to feel insouciant. “Virtual Tours” that the company had launched allowed registered users to be transported to a virtual world that would allow them to see, feel and interact with the new world as if it were real. High Speed internet based on fiber optics allowed tourists from different parts of the world to share their presence and interact with one another in the same way as they would in the real world. The realistic appeal of the advertised programs made it an instant hit in the market making S’cape Corporation a major player in the area of Virtual Reality.

Sandy’s (Sandeep Ram) interest and experience in the areas of virtual reality, tele-presence, and virtual presence landed him a job as a chief design architect here. A cherished resource, he has pioneered and implemented a program that would give virtual tourists an experience of touring the Martian landscape. In some ways, this latest scenario put the firm ahead of NASA in the race to Mars.

As the team is busy putting together the final specs in place to pull together an immaculate event for their annual celebrations with the participation of who’s who, the business tycoons to the big players in the field, Sandy is strangely missing in action.

Sandy and Vicky go back a long way with one deep rooted, strong passion - Classical Music. Even with an active work life, if there was one thing that they never missed, it was singing and listening to Carnatic music. They had been drilled and soaked with almost three decades of music.

Tracing back their childhood days, when they were brought up in the same neighborhood with the grand mansions of the Railway Colony in the heart of Chennai, the boys practically grew up together. They had so much in common - their School, University, Masters were all destined to be together, probably one of the reasons they even chose to sing as a “duo”. They were great fans and devotees of their Guru Shankar Subramaniam, a peak performer those days and a legendary musician today. They were always spotted on tambura support in their guru’s concerts.

Shankar Subramaniam on the vocals, Sriram on the violin, Mahesh on the mridangam, BVG on the Khanjira was an electrifying combination during those days that the hardcore rasikas would yearn for. It was a team that gave the other performers a run for their money! As time went by, their guru like all other popular musicians preceded his name with “Kallidaikurichi” indicating his birthplace, with immense pride. Eventually Kallidaikurichi Shankar Subramaniam (KSS) became a sought after, respected name among Carnatic music aficionados.

As the duo’s careers diverged and took a huge toll on their time, their concert performances started to wane and so did their experience of listening to live kutcheris. Having achieved so much in their respective careers, they always felt a void, a longing, an unexplained feeling of incompleteness. And they knew the cause was lack of music in their lives. They hardly listened to any live concert these days, leave alone give their own performances. Even when they did perform a few years ago, it was to a meagre audience, who always considered them the NRI “NASA Scientist” or the “Chief Design Architect” who sang for a hobby in December. Some rasikas even walked up to them and remarked “A NASA scientist performing in a concert...that’s so cool!”.

However to the musically ingrained duo, a performance meant serious business. They realized that people would accept them as professional musicians only if they were seen or heard performing often. And to be a good performer, one has to have a regular tonic of listening and attending live concerts. With their unpredictable, professional commitments and the distance factor, this sounded like a dream. They were torn between music, inherent in them, and their career, which gave a sense of them professional accomplishment. Not easy, and certainly not a situation that anyone would want to be in.

It was during a casual lunch at Sangeetha’s Restaurant in Manhattan couple of years back; they laid foundation to this long-discussed project about hosting concerts virtually. When technology advancement can facilitate virtual tours, why not virtual concerts, was their reasoning. They both were focused and strong willed to make this happen. They also decided that it would be a secret project that Sandy would meticulously work on over the next two years. It was agreed that Vicky with his massive commitments would only chip in as and when required.

The artists for maiden concert were unambiguously decided, and it none other than their revered guru Shankar Subramanian (Vidwan KSS now), and his usual team of accompanying artists - the same team which saw them grow! The date would be exactly two years from now. Vidwan KSS agreed to be a part of this project after some persuasion. It would be a 1 hr concert titled “A concert in Indraloka”.

Thus was the beginning of a project that would make history in the field of Carnatic Music.

Date: 10-Aug-2024
Project: “A concert in Indraloka”

This was the day both Vicky and Sandy looked forward to, a day which had the possibility of opening up endless avenues to rediscover the hidden yearning in them. This was the day their dream project was going to take off.

Sandy had worked very hard on this with a freelance team, while trying to balance his official commitments. Just like his alter ego, he has been leading a pointed life with single-minded focus to roll this out. Though Vicky’s contribution was more on the financials than the specifics, he never skipped important project discussions or milestones. They knew that this would get done only with such commitment. They brainstormed design ideas, kept themselves abreast of the evolving technology, and even discussed finer details like the stage decor and seating arrangements.

Their involvement in the nitty-gritty was so intense that one could not but help notice their flavor even on the invitation card design that was being sent to handpicked, select group of 100 hardcore rasika representatives from all parts of the world!

A couple of hours before the project kick off, Sandy was running past the final details with his bustling team, while on parallel tele-conferences with remote team of artists on one line, and the rasikas on the other line. As he diligently runs through the checklist, he spells out clear instructions asking all of them to sign-in to the system with their head gears on, specially repeating “head gears on”.

Back in NASA headquarters, Vicky heads back right to his seat after ticking off an item on the trial run sheet. It hits him even harder now that he is not a part of this long-awaited, dream project. He quickly grabs the phone to check out on the happenings!

Sandy is running short of time now. He quickly connects Vicky to the on-going conference with a hotch potch of voices in various decibel levels. No sooner he understands the issue that the program crashes whenever the 73rd user joins, which means it can handle only upto 72 concurrent users. While fixing the issue, Vicky finds Sandy persuading the artists and the rasikas. Everyone is anxious that the “test run” was not successful.

Meanwhile, Vidwan KSS calls Sandy on his hand phone to ask “yennnamaa aachu”, and Sandy pleads for an extension of 20 minutes.

After much digging, the issue is spotted by the geeky trouble-shooting team, and is related to one looped statement which initializes the values after the 72nd loop. Sandy is caught nail biting while the adept developer fixes the code and updates the server.

Back at the NASA base, its 75 minutes before launch. The leads are in a “weather briefing” going through the latest weather reports to make sure they can go ahead with the launch. Vicky has just kicked off the Auto-Check program that will now run a complete check on all the launch systems before they go into the “ready” mode for the actual launch. This is the single most important preparatory step before the launch.

At Indraloka, the program is refreshed and the users are asked to sign in again. The first ones to login are the artists along with Sandy. What the artists see in the Virtual world stuns them. “What a magnificent sight!” exclaims Vidwan KSS. The accompanying artists nod in affirmation. They can see and communicate with each other just the way they do back stage before the concert. What a wonder, they all wonder!

Sandy, though still anxious, feels more encouraged now to take the next step. As the rasikas log in one by one, they cant help but revel in this jaw dropping experience. The beautiful auditorium akin to the court hall of kings, the lotus shaped stage; the near real images of Gods including Lord Indra himself make them “feel” heaven. A truly spectacular sight!

As the screens open up, audience who check-in to Indraloka start to appear in the auditorium. Since it’s the first experience for most of them, they are caught unawares in the virtual world. One can see only delight in each other’s faces.

And Sandy is relieved that 99 users have joined in and the system is working fine. Noticing that Nagarajan Mama is missing, he calls them at their home in Mylapore. Mama casually tells him that there is some issue with the BSNL connection that will be fixed in the next 10 minutes!

Finally, Sandy’s and Vicky’s dream is about to come true! Countdown 3-2-1 and the screens go up, to thunderous applause by the audience. Sandy welcomes the artists of the evening as well as well as the audience to the first ever virtual concert. Without much speech, he hands over the stage to the artists - a gesture that’s always appreciated by the rasikas!

Vidwan KSS begins the concert with the traditional varnam in Bhairavi followed by Vatapi Ganapatim bhajeham in Hamsadhwani. He launches a special new korvai, presenting it with immaculate precision and ease. TRS mama goes “ Bale pa, bale”. Vidwan KSS, who is by now on a roll follows it up with the main piece - Syama Sastri's Sarojadala netri in Sankarabharanam. Sankarabharanam falls into place majestically and draws several ahas from the audience. After a Bharatiyar composition set in the raga Vaasanti that brings tears to the eyes of the listeners, the legend launches into a tillana he composed in a new ragam Mayam.

The audience laps up this piece, and Sandy misses out on a few popping administrative alerts, while blissfully decoding the scale for the new ragam.

Back in NASA, the mission director has the final countdown to the launch 10,9,8,7....1. This is the moment Vicky has been looking forward to for all these years. This moment will determine whether all that toil and sleepless nights spent will ultimately bear fruit and result in the actual launch three months later. The simulated run was designed to be very close to the actual launch, and success here almost meant a cake walk during the actual launch. T-0 and the solid rocket booster is ignited and the shuttle lifts off with a massive blast. It's a clean lift off and the shuttle gains height and speed going through the separation stages in perfectly 9 min and 22.2 seconds into flight. Voyager leaves the atmosphere and reaches outer space and eventually lands in Mars. Everyone in the launch center go completely euphoric... clapping and greeting each other. Vicky just cannot believe what has happened in the last 3 hrs. Everything seems to have happened so fast and he still cant believe what happened is indeed true. The simulation run took off perfectly, which meant a close to perfect launch in 3 months.

Without further delay, he quickly gets back and logs into Indraloka.

Just then, vidwan KSS concludes the concert with the traditional mangalam. The audience goes into raptures and breaks out into a never ending applause. They give the team a standing ovation.

Back at Nagarajan Mama’s home, Pati doesn’t understand why mama is wearing a mask, and has got up all of a sudden clapping violently.

She asks Mami, “Enna ma achu ivunukku?!!”

Sandy genuinely acknowledges and thanks everyone who has been a part of this unique concert, while affirming that such concerts will become the order of the day going forward. The strong willed, tough Sandy chokes, and his voice cracks as he hopes that this concept will set a new trend in breaking distance barriers, and rediscover the artists and rasikas in many like Vicky and himself! It was an emotional moment for everyone.

An hour later, Sandy calls Vicky.

Vicky: Fill me in with the whole thing, dude.

Sandy: ‘Twas awesome da, but for that small glitch. Sankarabharanam was main. What’s with the simulated trial launch?.

Vicky: Went off well bud. Now for a small break before the biggie in 3 months! How about driving up to 24x7 Sangeetha’s for dinner?

Sandy: Long drive, but yeah sure!!!!!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Malavika Sarukkai’s mother passes away

Saroja Kamakshi, mother of Bharatanatyam artiste and guru Malavika Sarukkai, passed away at their Chennai residence yesterday, 4 February 2013.

She was Malavika’s mentor and anchor in her personal and professional life, an unfailing source of encouragement and inspiration. She was a true collaborator, whose sage advice and creative inputs were integral to Malavika’s growth as an inventive artiste.

Saroja Kamakshi is survived by her two daughters Malavika Sarukkai and Priya Sarukkai Chhabria, and son-in-law Suresh Chhabria.