On 15 August 1947, we as a nation, made a tryst with destiny. On the eve of India’s Independence, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru—the first Prime Minister of Independent India—made a historic speech: “At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.” Freedom at that time meant independence from the shackles of British colonial rule. As the years have rolled by, the context of freedom too has undergone a change. Freedom can mean different things to different people: physical, emotional, and artistic; freedom from want and fear, from oppression, freedom of thought and expression, freedom to live life the way one wants to… the list is long!
For artists the freedom of thought and expression is paramount—the freedom to explore and experiment, to be spontaneous, to innovate within the boundaries of a tradition, can be challenging! In an attempt to get various perspectives on freedom, Sruti turns its spotlight this time on “What freedom means to artists”. We bring to you thought provoking and interesting insights of renowned classical artists who have shared their views about equality, the play of balance and freedom in life, the importance of freedom of choice and expression, how one strives to attain artistic freedom through introspection, and more.
Our cover stories this time focus on three artists. Ebrahim Alkazi was a visionary who was not afraid to explore uncharted territory in theatre and in the process, blazed a trail in modern Indian theatre. On the occasion of his first death anniversary, we are privileged to present a rare recollection of the pioneer by one of his old students Prof. Kamlakar Sontakke. He has enough material to write a book on his mentor, though we could but publish an interesting capsule of it.
B. Bhanumati, who passed away recently, was a Bharatanatyam exponent and teacher who thought out-of-the-box to dive deep into the vast ocean of the arts and emerge with glowing pearls of group choreographic works which made her and her troupe famous.
Carnatic vocalist and teacher, Shertallay Ranganatha Sharma, is a traditionalist who hails from a musical family in Kerala, and has equipped himself well musically to establish himself and gain recognition in the Carnatic music circuit.
In this issue, we also pay tribute to veteran Parassala Ponnammal who was also a traditionalist in her music and demeanour, but a pioneer with many firsts to her credit.
As 22 August is Madras Day, we bring to you this month, an interesting write-up on the songs of Vallalar Ramalinga Swamigal on Chennai, by Sriram V.
As Sruti goes to print, we are saddened to hear about the passing away of D.R. Santhanam (91) in Pune. He was a connoisseur of music, a pillar of support to his wife—veteran Carnatic musician and scholar R. Vedavalli, and a father-figure to her students. He was a member of the executive committee of the Madras Music Academy for several years and a good friend of Sruti from its inception. “Santhanam Mama” had a remarkable memory and was a fund of information about people and events of the past. He would also often draw our attention to young talented musicians and writers. Our heartfelt condolences to Sruti’s Senior Associate vidushi Vedavalli and her family.
And harking back to independence, we must remember that one’s freedom must not impinge on the freedom of another – that would be ‘footloose freedom’! On the occasion of the launch of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav by the Government of India to celebrate 75 years of India’s Independence, it is fitting that we re-dedicate our pledge to serve our state, our country and humanity with renewed vigour. Jai Hind!