Tuesday, 30 November 2021

From the Editor


Greetings of the Season! Yes, it’s time for Chennai’s world famous December music and dance season. Last year the season was totally online, but this time it’s a good mix of
online and live performances. In November, the arts fraternity has been busy recording concerts for the digital festivals. Artists who have been singing and playing in empty venues for ‘distant’ audiences online, are now eagerly looking forward to performing in the presence of a live vibrant audience. Sabhas have also become more ‘digital savvy’ and have not only spruced up their venues for online concerts, but have invested in improved ‘sound and light facilities’ to provide the rasika a more wholesome experience this time.

The Madras Music Academy has, like last year, preferred to present its programmes online. The good news is that this time, rasikas can watch lecdems, and dance programmes in addition to more music recitals.  Under the umbrella of the Federation of City Sabhas, eight organisations are presenting ‘Yours Truly Margazhi - Season 2’, from 15 to 31 December. It will hopefully be a ‘virtual’ treat like Season One last year. Other than that many organisations including Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Kartik Fine Arts, Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, and Narada Gana Sabha,  are offering limited live concerts comprising artists not featured in the online festival. K. Harishankar, Secretary, Narada Gana Sabha shares the good news that the sabha is hosting several live concerts this season. ‘Pre-season’ concerts will be held from
17 to 23 December at the Swami Haridhoss Giri Hall (the spruced up Mini Hall) featuring two concerts daily in the evening. Popular artists—musicians and dancers—will be
featured from 24 to 31 December – only one concert in the evening. He adds with a chuckle that there will be canteen facilities to cater to the rasika’s taste buds. Sruti too is collaborating with the Music Forum to present a live Lec Dem Mela at the Arkay Convention Centre. Our hearty congratulations to the distinguished awardees of the season. On the whole, it promises to be an entertaining season for all concerned. We only hope that rain does not play spoil-sport and dampen the spirit of enthusiastic art lovers, as Chennai has already been battered by heavy downpour and flooding which has made it difficult for all of us to carry out our day-to-day activities. Covered ‘boat-taxis’ could well come in handy as an alternative means of transport!

In the December issue of Sruti, we bring to you the artistic journey of two veteran stalwarts – famous Bharatanatyam exponent Lakshmi Viswanathan and sarod maestro Rajeev Taranath. Their lives highlight their sadhana, their deep involvement with and immersion in the arts—which is not focused on performance alone, but a quest for excellence. Lakshmi Viswanathan brings to her art a certain finesse, classicism, eloquence, a rare ‘midukku’ and subtle expressiveness. Her  presentation of Nee mataley mayanura, Varugalaamo, and Vazhi maraittirukkuthey are perennial favourites. In contrast to her vibrant interview, the sarod maestro Rajeev Taranath takes us on an introspective journey of music, his gharana, his mentors and his exploration of swara and melody.

The spotlight this time is on the historical decision of Kerala Kalamandalam to admit women to its full-time Kathakali course. An emotional and comprehensive tribute to sangeeta acharya and music scholar, the late B. Krishnamoorthy, by a disciple, makes for interesting reading. The article on the Tamra sabha is the fourth in the series of Lord Nataraja’s pancha sabha. You can also read the concluding portion of Music in Vaishnavite Tamil literature.

The December ‘season’, as you can see, helps to draw the attention of our advertisers. We thank them for their support and look forward to their continued assistance as well as that of our subscribers throughout the year – for us to survive. Enjoy the season, the concerts, and enjoy reading Sruti !

PKM 100


C. Ramakrishnan

Puducode Krishnamurthy (1923-1985) was a popular musician from Kerala and a direct disciple of Palghat Rama Bhagavatar. He joined the Chembai Memorial Music College, Palakkad, in 1958 as a professor of music and later transferred to Swati Tirunal College of Music, Tiruvananthapuram, in 1970. In 1976 he became the principal of Chembai Memorial Music College and retired in 1978. A vidwan par excellence, he had a large fan following. Blessed with a resonating voice, with authentic pathantaram of kritis of various vaggeyakaras, he was respected by the musicians and was a regular performer in the prestigious Navaratri Mandapam, where he popularised many kritis of Swati Tirunal. But the fact that he was a versatile composer too is not known to the public.

Baby Sreeram is a senior musician, guru, composer and disciple of Ananthalakshmi Venkatraman of Tiruvananthapuram and Sangita Kalanidhi T.M.Thyagarajan. Baby Sreeram got the handwritten book containing the songs from a family friend of the composer, has curated this project to popularise 100 compositions of Puducode  Krishnamurthy within a year. Puducode Krishnamurthy has more than 200 compositions to his credit. The songs are on various deities like Devi, Guruvayoorappan, Ganapathy, Vishnu, Hanuman, Narasimhar of Sholingar, Perumal, written in Malayalam, Tamil, Sanskrit and Manipravalm. He has composed songs on Arupadai Veedu and also on the navagrahas.

There is a song on Dhanvantri of Nelluvaya temple and also on Tyagaraja. A couple of years ago, Baby Sreeram sang the kriti Vara Vaaranavadanam composed in praise of Ganesa in the raga Pantuvarali at the Madras Music Academy. A set of kritis titled Devi Pancharathnam composed in the five ghana ragas following the format of Tyagaraja Pancharatna kritis was a delectable treat by Baby Sreeram last year, sung by different musicians. 

Puducode Krishnamurthy was an ardent Devi upasaka, and his compositions are rich in lyrical beauty, bhakti bhava and laya richness. Like Syama Sastry, most of his songs seek the blessings of the Goddess. Krishnamurthy included several of his compositions -- Sree Hare Janardana in Revati, Kaniyumo in Sreeranjani, Arul puriya innum tamasama Narasimha in Kapi,  Varuga varuga Saravanabhava in Jonpuri, in his concerts.

Little did all of us know that he had such a vast repertoire of compositions under his sleeve until Baby Sreeram started this project of PKM100 through social media. The videos are uploaded on Facebook at 7 pm on all Sundays and also uploaded to her YouTube channel with the lyrics. Baby Sreeram is also willing to share the notations on request with any musician willing to learn these compositions. During Navaratri, she uploaded a song a day on Facebook from Krishnamurthy’s Puducode Devi compositions.

Krishnamurthy had written all the songs in a notebook with only skeletal notations. Baby Sreeram has set the multitude of sangatis and written the notation for the songs. The most appreciable feature of this project is that Baby Sreeram roped in talented musicians from various states and involved them in this project. She sent the notations to them, and they have recorded the songs and sent the videos to Baby. The videos are uploaded on social media along with a brief introduction about the composer, song and musicians. The musicians take particular interest to be a part of the project, and they internalise the songs and sing following the notations of Baby Sreeram. Technical and editorial support is provided by her son Bharat Narayanan and daughter Anagha.

The rasikas enjoyed a veritable treat from a plethora of musicians like K.N.Renganatha Sarma, K.Gayathri, Salem Gayathri Venkatesan, Aishwarya Sankar, Vasudha Ravi, N.J.Nandini, H.Rathnaprabha, A.S.Murali, C.R.Vaidyanathan, K.S.Vishnudev, Venkatnagarajan, Swathi Srikrishna, Vivek Muzhikulam, and not-so-often heard musicians like Jayamangala Krishnamoni from Bangalore, Chandana Bala Kalyan from Mumbai, Balamurali from Kottarakara  (direct disciple of Puducode Krishnamurthy from Kalakshetra), Sharmila Jayakumar from Kerala and Mohana Sarma from Chennai. All the musicians sang with bhava, involvement and perfection. One musician based out of California- Geetha Venkat heard the song on social media every Sunday evening. On the following day, she would send her recording of the same song with utmost perfection. The aim of this project is that the compositions should get wider attention and enter the mainstream concert repertoire, and glad to note that this is already achieved. Vidwans A.S.Murali and Vivek Muzhikulam have already rendered the songs in the concerts and K.S.Vishudev plans to render this song at the Guruvayur festival this year.

Uma Parvathy, daughter of Puducode Krishnamurthy, presently settled in Chennai became emotional after watching the episodes of PKM100 and congratulated Baby Sreeram for her mission. She recorded in her video message, “Appa was a highly divine person. The songs came to him spontaneously. He never wanted to record the songs or commercialise them. Often he wrote songs for specific persons. My mother-in-law was a great devotee of Narasimhar. One day while Appa was casually chatting with her, he wrote the kriti on Sholingar Narasimhar. All the musicians involved will receive the blessings of Appa and reach a higher status in their career and life.”

Link to the concerts 



C Ramakrishnan

Carnatic music composers from the pre-trinity period to the current period have poured their literary output out of their devotion to God and passion towards music. Among the women composers, Andal, Karaikal Ammayar, contemporary composers like D.Pattammal, Ambujam Krishna, Kalyani Varadarajan, Suguna Purushothaman and a few others have made significant contributions to the wealth of Carnatic music. But it is a bitter truth that their compositions have not received the due patronage from contemporary musicians and sangeeta rasikas. Only a few compositions have made it successfully to the concert platform and caught the attention of the rasikas.

Sundaravalli Ammal was a simple homemaker who was not formally trained in music or literature. Because of divine blessings, she composed songs on the deities she visited and wrote them in a notebook. Sundaravalli Ammal was born in 1906 in Kuzhumani village in the Tiruchirapally district. After her marriage to K.Rajam Iyengar, a school teacher at the age of fourteen, they lived in Srivilliputtur, Vellore, Srirangam, Nellore, Madurai and Coimbatore. She managed her family of six children with the income of her husband as a school teacher. Besides her household chores, she found time and inspiration to pen her outpourings which came to her spontaneously only because of her divinity and simplicity. The songs are in Tamil praise the glory of the various Gods and are written with utmost simplicity. The songs were written in a notebook, which her grandchildren have since located, and they decided to publish and popularise them.

In some songs, she has indicated the name of the raga, but most of them do not contain any indication of any specific raga or tala. She breathed her last in 1980. The compositions of Sundaravalli Ammal deserve our patronage and publicity.

The family members of the late composer published the book titled Kaanaadha Kovilkal - Kelaadha Geethankal in the year 1991, containing some of her compositions. As a sequel to that, another ten songs have been tuned and notated by mridanga vidwan Arun Prakash in the most appealing ragas. The family released the book on 29 August 2021, handing over the first copy to celebrated musician P.Unnikrishnan. The book contains the sahithyam in Tamil and English and notations in English to learn these compositions and present them in concerts. After the book release, the songs were presented to a live audience with a team of musicians led by Arun Prakash. Arun Prakash, a seasoned mridanga vidwan, and son of the illustrious music composer L.Krishnan. Arun Prakash has selected ragas matching the song's mood, chosen rakti ragas like Mayamalavagowla, Anandabhairavi, Dhanyasi, Khamboji, Kanada, Khamas, Poorvikalyani, Sama, and showed variety in the kalapramanam within the same tala.  His innate talent to use the most appropriate phrases to reveal the beautiful picture of the raga is evident in the tuning of the kritis.

The songs were rendered by singers Vignesh Easwar and Aditya Madhavan. The vocalists exhibited admirable coordination in rendering sangatis and projecting the raga bhava with clear enunciation of the sahithyam. The duo needs a special mention for internalising the songs and singing without any reference.

The instrumental ensemble enhances the beauty of the songs, never coming in the way of the enjoyment of the bhakti-laden sahithyam. The musical interludes are diligently used in between the pallavi-anupallavi or anupallavi-charanam. The orchestra consisted of K.Arun Prakash on the mridangam, Guruprasad on the ghatam, Mylai Karthikeyan on the nagaswaram, Sandeep Ramachandran, Sayi Rakshit and Madan Mohan on the violin, Sujit Naik on the flute, and Charumati Chandrasekar on the veena. Arun Prakash deserves our wholehearted appreciation for tuning the song Bhaktargalai kaathidum Kodhainayagi on Ranganayaki Thayar of Srirangam as a ragamalika comprising Khamas, Nalinakanthi and Saranga  ragas set to a lilting Tisra nadai.

The musicians presented all the songs with admirable harmony, highlighting the subtle nuances and never hearing a harsh or out of sync note in the entire presentation.  Arun Prakash and his team deserve praise for their flawless execution and extensive preparations during this difficult Covid period.

To watch the performance click here 

Friday, 12 November 2021

Anaithum Avale

Navatratri Special Series by Madhusudhanan Kalaichelvan


Madhusudhanan Kalaichelvan, a Professor in Architecture with deep knowledge in Saivaite and Vaishnavite literature, music, philosophy, Tamil epigraphy, and many related disciplines and his oratory skills in Tamil and English, interspersed with Sanskrit slokas and hymns leaves a lasting impact on his audience. He has collaborated with many acclaimed musicians and presented very interesting lectures on a variety of subjects.

During this Navaratri, he uploaded a series of videos on YouTube titled Anaithum Avale on goddesses enshrined in important places of worship. The places covered were Chidambaram, Tiruppanandal, Tiruvayyar, Nachiar Kovil, Vaitheeswaran Kovil, Tirukkarugavur, Tirukkadayur, Nellukkadai Mariamman of Nagapattinam, Koothanur Saraswathy and Tiruvarur.

Kalaichelvan, in his inimitable style covered all minute details about the temples, idols in the temples,  iconography, sthala vriksham, temple tanks,  festivals, and various stories covering the temples, also interviewing the devotees present there. Even though some of the stories are familiar, his lecture covers many unknown details and customs of worship in the temples. The visuals covering gigantic temples, mammoth praharams, exquisitely decked deities, vahanams, all make it an exhilarating experience for the viewers. His chaste Tamil pronunciation and  communication skills are commendable.

The music used in these videos adds to our enjoyment. Snatches from Tevarams, Divyaprabandham, Dikshitar kriti Bhajare re citta in Kalyani are sung by popular musicians like Sikkil Gurucharan, Ashwath Narayanan, Bharat Sundar, Vignesh Easwar, Vidya Kalyanaraman, Vinaya Karthik Rajan, Saindavi Prakash, and Suchitra Balasubramaniam.  Veena by up coming musician Anjani Sreenivasan, mridangam by Aswini Sreenivasan, percussion by Venkat, provide soothing music in many episodes. The videos are produced by Ragamalika TV headed by noted music curator, Subhasree Tanikachalam, who has also penned a viruttam for this production.



Thursday, 11 November 2021

Abhijnana Sakuntalam - The Movie

Vibha Krishnakumar

For ages, the ancient love story of Śakuntalā has inspired artists and composers all around the globe. From Theophile Gautier, to Franco Alfano, multiple adaptations have been released, multiple operas have been seen. Now, a special adaptation of Kalidasa’s Abhijñāna Śākuntalaṃ is to be released on the silver screen in Sanskrit India’s oldest language .

 Many movies on the liaison between Śakuntalā and Duśyanta have been produced by the Indian Film Industry, in various languages, in different decades, and with different actors. One of the most notable ones is the Tamil movie starring M. S Subbulakshmi and G. N Balasubramaniam in the main roles (released in 1941). The interpretations have always been slightly different from one another, with music always playing a vital role. 

 Śākuntalaṃ - Produced and directed by renowned orator Dushyanth Sridhar, is a Sanskrit film with dialogues in Sanskrit and the ancient language Prakrit. The influence of the rich Indian heritage is expected to be deep in this film, with incorporation of recitation of hymns from various vedas and use of yogic postures. The detailing in the background showcases architecture from the Chalukya, Pallava, Hoysala and Vijayanagara periods.

The songs in the film have lines from the compositions of master composers and from treatises in south Indian languages. The compositions, tuned by the eminent composer Rajkumar Bharathi, are set in Carnatic and Hindustani ragas, with the mellifluous voices of lead singers Abhishek Raghuram and Deepika Varadarajan traversing the notes. 

Sequences of Bharatanatyam, and Yakshagana dances are to be seen in the film, with Anitha Guha and Keremane Sivananda Hegde as the choreographers. 

 Though the main cast is mostly of debut artists, the supporting cast consists of seasoned actors such as Y Gee Mahendra, T. V Varadarajan, Mohan Raman, amongst others.  The lead actress, Payal Shetty (a trained Kathak dancer) and Shubham Sahrawat’s transformation and portrayal of Śakuntalā and Duśyanta respectively, are greatly anticipated. The entire team had rehearsed their dialogues for two months online before the actual shooting of the film began, to ensure that the dubbing process went smoothly. 

Watch the trailer

A premise like Śākuntalaṃ, set in the forests for the most part, lends naturally for a mesmerizing visual presentation. Audiences can look forward to the rustic appeal in the film created by the use of Khadi clothing coloured with natural dyes, procured from Gandhigram and Crafts Council of India.

Despite the fact that the number of Sanskrit films produced is dishearteningly low, this adaptation of Kalidasa’s masterpiece in its original language, is greatly anticipated for the many cultural aspects so consciously integrated by the core team. Masters in their art forms - B. Lenin, Sai Shravanam, Magi Natesh, Lakshmi Srinath - are sure to have added their magic to this magnum opus. All in all, this is a Vocal for Local project in so many ways!

 Click here for more information on the movie - https://www.desikadaya.org/ddp