Monday, 29 August 2022

Bookshelf

A GRAMMAR OF DANCE – from the classical Tamil epic Silappathikaram of Ilango Adigal. Compiled and translated by Anjana Anand. [Published by Anjana Anand < anjanakumar@ hotmail.com > Paperback. Pp. 199. Rs. 500].

 



The epic Silappadikaram and its unequalled position in classical Tamil literature perhaps needs little introduction. Anjana Anand’s effort to examine the Arangetra Kaadhai—a seminal chapter that addresses dance in particular and extracts a translation with guidance under the eminence of Prof. S. Raghuraman, is a work that will prove infinitely useful particularly to dancers. They have long awaited such a helpful guide to the classical language in the epic, and the work and effort must be commended. Anjana’s own training and exposure to the world of dance brings in an angle of focus and clarity that is important and needs to be acknowledged. While the epic has seen multiple translations over the last century and more, the works have been summary extractions of the chapters and storyline that follow a descriptive form intended for general audiences. This work sets itself apart. Anjana’s presentation showcases a detailed meaning stream aimed at non-Tamil speakers (or scholars) with the most important aspect of a ‘word to word’ meaning and ‘phrasal’ transliterations in the Roman script with summaries that follow. In the coming decades and more, this work will benefit research scholars and the student fraternity from undergraduate to doctoral levels. Across the passage of time, translation attempts of epics often cross-refer to commentaries by erudite scholars that provide invaluable perspectives. These clarities add context and content understanding that illuminate readers with insights and clarity that carry meaningful learnings most often related to general life and the social fabric of the bygone ages. In this work, Anjana has included the insights of perhaps the earliest known commentators – Arumpada Uraiasiriyar (10th century) and Adiyarkkunallar (12th century). The reason for these inclusions was to highlight the similarities in their thought processes as well as their differences, perhaps due to the two centuries between the two scholars and individual perspectives. The work is an excellent documentation of Ilango Adigal’s epic with a specific reference to performing arts, with a particular insightful focus on dance as it prevailed then. The work relates to the social fabric of the age, the political backdrop of the times, the economic structure and the creativity of interpretation offered through the articulation of the commentaries. As with all classical works, translation attempts into modern tongues often present challenges. Most often, they are ones of language, meaning and interpretative understanding. In this particular work, I would attribute it to the expressive limitation of English in translating certain words or phrases from the original in classical Tamil. Certain words do not carry equal parallels in English and hence cannot be translated in isolation. For non-Tamil speakers, it could seem like a ‘word’ translation, but in reality, it is the phrase that is translated, or sometimes the translations may even relate to a combination of two or three words. In these situations, ‘phrasal meanings’ may perhaps offer better clarity of understanding. In these cases, an English translation text would also benefit immensely from a transliteration of the original alongside. An observation is on the sequential context of the translation presentation. This relates to the Tamil verse as the original with the same text presented in English (Roman script) beneath, followed by the phrasal meaning. The summary of the extract, however, is presented after a sequence of ten or fifteen verses. Looking through the eyes of a scholar or a researcher, it may prove to be a bit exhaustive to crossrefer pages each time to extract a fulllength summary that appears at the end of the sequence of the verses. With a particular reference to the explanation presented (phrase by phrase and word by word), there is a point where the 24 types of abhinayas have been outlined as instinctive emotions – starting with ‘vengudom’, which means ‘anger’; here a beautiful explanation follows. However, the phrasal split explanation as presented earlier is absent. I do imagine the justification in terms of the need to maintain the ‘flow of thought’ from the beginning to the end of the Arangetra Kaadhai, but this re-sequencing could potentially enhance cross-reference ease and perhaps be addressed in the next edition of this important document. The book has a foreword by Tamil scholar and academician E. Sundaramurthy, and a preface by S. Raghuraman. Anjana has penned an author’s note, given a brief introduction to Silappadikaram and Arangetru Kaadhai, and also included a note to the reader on diacritical marks and how to navigate the book. Anjana Anand’s work is clear, commendable and worthy of praise for the effort. The book will serve as a worthy tool of reference and benefit scores of enthusiasts, dance students, and historians and will serve as a reference document in the years to come.

 

SREELATHA VINOD 

(Senior Bharatanatyam dancer and teacher with a doctorate in dance)

Wednesday, 24 August 2022

An anthem for Mylapore

August is the time when several events are organised to celebrate Madras Day, Madras Week and even Madras Month. Madras Day is celebrated on 22 August every year. The idea of a Madras Day was first suggested by Chennai-based journalist Vincent D’Souza, the Editor of Mylapore Times and Kutcheri Buzz, to the late S. Muthiah, historian, author of books on Madras/Chennai  and former editor of Madras Musings. This happened at a meeting of the Chennai Heritage in 2004. Madras Day celebrations have been held every year since then. Vincent D’ Souza was also the catalyst in launching the Mylapore Festival which has become very popular over the years as the Sundaram Finance Mylapore Festival. It is a cultural feast held in January every year in Mylapore --  one of Chennai’s oldest neighbourhoods. It is interesting to note that an anthem for the Mylapore neighbourhood was created as a part of the Sound & Light show that premiered at the Sundaram Finance Mylapore Festival in 2009. It was played every evening during the festival.  Rendered by several artists and children, the anthem video can be viewed on YouTube.




 

Mylapore is an ideal heritage zone with iconic institutions, it is home to legends, illustrious people and the famous Kapaleeswarar temple. Inspired by old and new Mylapore, well known young lawyer, musician and composer K.S.R. Anirudha has penned the lyrics for the anthem song. “I wanted to convey that ‘people make a place’ and consequently ‘the place makes the people’ and Mylai-Mylapore is such,” says Anirudha who too lives in Mylapore. He has set the composition to tune in his all time favourite raga Brindavana Saranga, with intertwining rhythms in chatusram, tisram and khandam  nadais. He shares the lyrics of the song, its transliteration and translation with readers of Sruti on the occasion of ‘Madras month’.

 Hail  Mylapore

 தென்சென்னை புகழ் மகுடம்

கடல் தழுவும் மையிலைப்புறம்;

 அயலாரும் வியந்திடும் எம்

மையிலாப்பூர் வாழியவே;

 எத்தொழிலைச் செய்தாலும் 

எத்துயரப்பட்டாலும்

வித்தகரும் பாமரரும் 

இணைந்திருக்கும் எழில் மயிலை;

 அயலாரும் வியந்திடும் எம்

மையிலாப்பூர் வாழியவே;

 குறுக்குச்சந்து நெடுஞ்சாலை

தண்டவாளம் மேம்பாலம் 

மாதாமணி மசூதித்தெரு

அக்ரஹாரமும் இங்குண்டு;

 அயலாரும் வியந்திடும் எம்

மையிலாப்பூர் வாழியவே;

 நடைபாதை கடைகளும் இங்கு

அடையாறு நதியும் உண்டு

விடையாக பலவிஷயம் 

மடையாக வைத்திருக்கும்

 தடையின்றி வளர் மயிலை

புகழ் வளர வாழ்த்துதுமே, வாழ்த்துதுமே, வாழ்த்துதுமே!

 A transliteration

 Thenchennai pugazh magudam

Kadal thazhuvum Mayilaipuram

 Ayalaarum viyandhidum yem

Mayilaapoor vaazhiyave

 Eththozhilaich seidhaalum

Eththuyarap pattaalum

Viththagarum paamararum

Inaindhirukkum ezhil mayilai

 Ayalaarum viyandhidum yem

Mayilaapoor vaazhiyave

 Kurukkuchchandhu nedunjaalai

Dhanddavaalam membaalam

Maadhaamani masoodhiththeru

Agrahaaramum ingunddu

 Ayalaarum viyandhidum yem

Mayilaapoor vaazhiyave

 Nadaipaadhai kadaigalum ingu

Adayaaru nadhiyum unddu

Vidaiyaaga palavishayam 

Madaiyaaga vaiththirukkum

 Thadaiyindri valar Mayilai

Pugazh valara Vaazhthudhume,

Vaazhthudhume, Vaazhthudhume!

 A translation

 Crown of fame of South Chennai

The Sea embracing Mayilaipuram!

 Surprising even to the non-dwellers

Let glory be to our Mylapore!

 Whatsoever be their livelihood

Whatever pains might they suffer, yet

the learned and commoners

Go-together in this beautiful Mayilai!

 Surprising even to the non-dwellers

Let glory be to our Mylapore!

 Cross-street, Highway, 

rail-track, over-bridge,

Church-bell, Mosque street,

Agrahaaram is also here!

 Surprising even to the non-dwellers

Let glory be to our Mylapore!

 Pavement shops more than a few,

Adayaar river flows through,

Storehouse of answers to several questions like a Dam unparalleled,

 Mayilai's growth sans hurdles,

Let glory be to Mayilai! Let glory be! Let glory be!


The 'Mylapore Anthem' team

 Concept and Organisation: Vincent D'Souza of Mylapore Times

Lyrics, Music, Soundscape, Percussion & Co-ordination: K.S.R. Anirudha

Lead Vocals: S.R. Mytreyi, Aditya Venkatesh

Violin: R. Priyamvadaa

Keyboard: Anish Mohan

Other Vocals / Chorus: Pooja Sivakumar, G. Janani and K. Maanasa

Sound Engineer / Studio arrangement: Baba Prasad

YouTube Version: Bala Venkatesh

 


S. Janaki

 

Thursday, 4 August 2022

Vipranarayana : Vintage vignettes

 “There are shortcuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them,” Vicki Baum observed rightly. I happen to be one of those fortunate beings who discovered this shortcut at an early age. I had the privilege of being trained by great masters like Vempati Chinna Satyam in Kuchipudi and K.J. Sarasa in Bharatanatyam and started performing on stage in my pre-teens along with my sister Rathna (Papa) Kumar. I stopped dancing after marriage, but my job profile at Doordarshan kept me continuously connected with dance until the day I retired. I continue to engage with dance post-retirement, and whenever I encounter roadblocks due to unforeseen circumstances, I rekindle evergreen vintage vignettes to maintain the happiness quotient.

Fifty-two years ago, I played a small but significant role in the dance-drama, Vipranarayana, choreographed by my revered guru Vempati Chinna Satyam. Eighteen years later, I had an opportunity to direct it for television, and it holds many special memories for me both as a dancer and a broadcaster. Vipranarayana, the story of the Vaishnavaite saint Thondaradipodi Alwar, was initially written as a Telugu musical opera for All India Radio, Vijayawada, by my grand-uncle Devulapalli Krishna Sastri. This was at the behest of renowned theatre actor Banda Kanakalingeswara Rao and Kuchipudi exponent Chinta Krishnamurthy. They were Sangeet Natak Akademi awardees and staunch promoters of Kuchipudi who were instrumental in establishing the Siddhendra Kalakshetram in Kuchipudi in 1957. Krishna Sastri composed extraordinary lyrics in the Yakshagana style, and Balantrapu Rajanikantha Rao gave them wings with his outstanding music. My mother, Vinjamuri Anasuya Devi, decided to renew this brilliant piece of work and present it as a Kuchipudi dance drama in Hyderabad. She commissioned Kuchipudi maestro Vempati Chinna Satyam to choreograph it with my sister Rathna (Papa) Kumar as the heroine, Devadevi, and popular cine actor Chandramohan as the protagonist, Vipranarayana. Kothapalli Padma performed the role of Devadevi’s older sister, Madhuravani and Durga was their mother, Vesyamatha. I was Lord Ranganatha Swami, who sets right all the wrongs in the end, and my younger sister Kamala was Vatu, the Lord in the guise of a young boy. It was the first time we three sisters performed together on stage. Chandramohan was a committed artist despite being a highly sought-after film actor. He had to squeeze time for dance practice after his busy shooting schedule. It was a demanding task as a master was an uncompromising disciplinarian. As the rehearsals unfolded, both my master and my mother felt the need for additional lyrics for smoother transitions in the story. My grand-uncle complied, and my mother, who was a top-grade music composer for All India Radio, composed these songs in the same genre as Rajani to blend in seamlessly with his style.

It was a red letter day in the annals of Kuchipudi dance when Vipranarayana was premiered at the Ravindra Bharathi in Hyderabad on 31 December 1969, under the auspices of the Vinodini Sabha. The auditorium was filled with connoisseurs, celebrities and dance enthusiasts who came from far and near. Expectations were high as it was the coming together of three great legends of literature, music and dance. In addition, the vocals were rendered by the incomparable Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna and stalwarts like Mullick, Vinjamuri Lakshmi and B.K. Sumithra. It was for the very first time in his musical career that Balamuralikrishna sang live on stage for a dance programme and we were blessed to have this exemplary singer lend his voice for our dance! Master created magic with his brilliant choreography, and two of the songs from the dance drama, Koluvaithiva Rangasayee and Vedalera Vayyarulu got inducted into the Kuchipudi margam as solo items.

The recording started on a euphoric note, and I managed to complete the opening sequences and the finale in the temple background. The huge temple set had to be dismantled, and a simple hut had to be erected for the romantic interludes between Vipranarayana and Devadevi. By the time the set and lighting were completed, it was 5 pm, and my studio time was up. The recording had to be stopped abruptly due to the paucity of time. It was an awkward situation, and I was close to tears. Chandramohan had been gracious enough to attend all the rehearsals and be at the studio all day along with the other artists, participating for the sheer love of art, as there was not much monetary benefit from dance those days. Imagine my predicament with an unfinished production and everything at a standstill! We were understaffed and had to adhere to strict schedules. But this was an exceptional situation, and I begged my director to provide me with minimum staff to record the remaining sequences with a single camera. He helped me put together a small crew to complete the recording. It was a paradigm shift from the macro to the micro, but all the artists gave their concerted best to make it blend seamlessly.
 
Vipranarayana was a landmark success as a musical opera, a dance drama and a television show because of the confluence of great artists. From the concept to the final presentation, every artist involved gave their 100 per cent. I had a most unusual experience first-hand witnessing this. For the stage show in Hyderabad, Rathna left along with the master and the other dancers two days early for stage rehearsals. My mother and I travelled a day later along with Balamuralikrishna. We ended up missing our train as we got held up in a massive traffic jam due to some protests and diversions en route to the station. My mother moved heaven and earth to get us on a later train up to Warangal, and we had to travel from there by bus. After a trying, long journey, we finally reached Hyderabad and barely an hour later, he enthralled the audience with his mesmerising music. To this day, these vignettes are etched in my mind and I still feel a great sense of gratitude for my involvement with this amazing project.

I was keen on recording Vipranarayana for Doordarshan, but it took me almost eighteen years to revive it. My mother tried to gather the same artists once again, but unfortunately, Balamuralikrishna was not available for the recording. Bhagavathula Seetharama Sarma sang with equal verve along with Vinjamuri Lakshmi and Prakasa Rao. Rathna and Chandramohan did the lead roles, but this time, Sailaja was Madhuravani. Our set designer Venugopal created a magnificent Srirangam temple set and Nandavanam nearby. I could not participate in the programme as I was directing it but the divine vigraham of Ranganathaswami effectively resolved all the issues in the end through visual special effects.

Seetha Ratnakar

Peep into the Past - Vipranarayana

It was one of the most memorable summers I had ever spent at my great uncle Devulapalli Krishna Sastry’s house in Hyderabad. Three visionaries, Banda Kanakalingeswara Rao, credited with breathing new life into Kuchipudi, Kuchipudi maestro Chinta Krishnamurthy, and music composer Balantrapu Rajanikantha Rao, had all come together in a creative collaboration. I was fortunate to be privy to witness the unfolding of this magic, but little knew the important role it would play in my future.

Vipranarayana had its unforgettable debut in 1969. Actor Chandramohan was playing the title role at the height of his film career, and rehearsals would start at 10 pm and continue till 1 am or even later. Master garu – Vempati Chinna Satyam, was at his creative best even at that late hour, and revelling in the sheer beauty of the wonderful lyrics and mesmerising music, none of us complained! Chandramohan even learned some Kuchipudi basics from master just for this programme! The choreography turned out to be flawless, master, being a perfectionist, but the icing on the cake was having my favourite singer, the incomparable Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna, singing for us, live on stage, for the very first time for a dance performance! What a thrilling experience, and how lucky we were! During my sister Seetha Ratnakar’s tenure as the producer for dance programmes at Chennai Doordarshan, we had the opportunity to present it again with some necessary changes. Needless to say, the passage of almost two decades had in no way mitigated the extraordinary beauty of the Yakshagana nor our happiness in doing it again. Some performances remain etched indelibly in one’s memory, and my role as Devadevi in Vipranarayana was a defining moment for me.

RATHNA KUMAR 

Artistic Director, Anjali Center for Performing Arts, Houston, Tx, USA

Monday, 1 August 2022

Editor's Note

15 August 2022 is a red letter day for India  that is Bharat. The Government of  India has launched the special initiative ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’  to celebrate and commemorate 75 years of the nation’s  Independence and the glorious history of  its people, culture and achievements. The official journey of the Mahotsav commenced on 12 March 2021 beginning a 75-week countdown to our 75th anniversary of independence and will conclude on 15 August 2023. This Mahotsav, dedicated to the people of the country, is a festival of awakening of the nation; festival of fulfilling the dream of good governance; and the festival of global peace and development.

Let us take a look at the interesting themes of the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav: (1) the ‘freedom struggle’, (2) ‘Ideas@75’ which focuses on programmes and events inspired by ideas and ideals that have shaped India and will guide us as we navigate through this period of Amrit Kaal (25 years between India@75 and India@100). It covers popular, participatory initiatives that help bring alive India’s unique contribution to the world. (3) ‘Actions@75’  highlights the steps being taken to implement policies and actualise commitments for multi-modal connectivity. (4) ‘Achievements@75’  showcases evolution and progress across different sectors  along the way. It is intended to grow into a public account of our collective achievements as a 75-year-old independent country with a legacy of 5000-plus  years of ancient history. (5) ‘Resolve@75’.

It is heartening to note that ‘Amritam Gamaya’ - the International Festival of Performing Arts, is being conducted in July-August 2022.  The aim of the festival is  “proclaiming association with the past, connecting through art and delving deep into the roots of the rich heritage of India so that succeeding generations can explore, expand and contribute to the cultural and creative economy of our nation.”

It hopes to recreate awareness of the connection between the varied forms of dance and music, both classical and folk, tribal and innovative art present throughout the length and breadth of India and trace the parallels between certain Indian and international art forms through curated presentations in various venues across the country.

 

In this context, Sruti magazine can take pride in playing its role in helping to document, create awareness and propagate the performing arts in India and the world.

In this August issue the focus is on the late sarod maestro, the great Ali Akbar Khan. He was a colossus of a musician whose influence on Hindustani instrumental music was immense, which has been highlighted by our eminent writers as well as his son. Sruti pays tribute to him on the occasion of his centenary. With a sense of fulfillment we are also happy to present the concluding part of the feature on Mysore Vasudevachar -- the ‘grand old man’ of Carnatic music.  A profile-article long due!

 

As 22 August is celebrated as ‘Madras Day’ and the Chennai metropolis gears up to celebrate the occasion in various ways, you may be surprised to know that a Mylapore anthem was composed over a decade ago! Our spotlight this time is on the anthem,  its theme and its composer. 

 

As usual, we have several reports of music and dance events celebrating artists and the art forms in our News & Notes section. Happy reading!

 

To conclude on a patriotic note – as we celebrate 75 years of independence, let us decorate our hearth and homes in our national tricolour for three days beginning 13 August; let us hoist the  national flag on Independence Day; and resolve to celebrate the immortal, invincible, and intangible heritage of Bharat, and  instill pride in our rich culture. Jai Hind!

 S. Janaki