COVER STORY - A yogi at the altar of music by LAKSHMI SREERAM
V.V. Subramanyam is a musician who, even his worst detractors will admit, has reached regions beyond mere technique and dwells in them. As a probable corollary, he is not very facile with the world of everyday interactions. His refusal to accept anything less than perfect lies at the root of his musical achievements and that same attitude perhaps underlies what is seen as his somewhat intractable disposition towards men and matters. A complex personality, Subramanyam has one consuming passion – music; and this has led him into deep explorations of religious belief and spiritual techniques. His is a world of mysterious connections, of kundalini yoga and mantra sastra, and, above all, nada – that all pervading, primal sound energy mentioned in esoteric philosophical traditions. Born at Thoattuvay in Kerala on 16 March 1944, Vadakkencheri Veeraraghava Subramanyam (VVS), is among the great Carnatic musicians that verdant green country has produced.
MAIN FEATURE - An artist and a gentleman by K.K. GOPALAKRISHNAN
A journey through the life and artistry of 68-year old Kathakali Guru Sadanam Balakrishnan, an acclaimed performer, teacher and choreographer of our times. My first interaction with Kathakali exponent Guru Sadanam P.V. Balakrishnan was during the middle of the 1980s. I was the Secretary of the Kathakali club in Kannur, now defunct like several other Kathakali clubs of those times. The Club annually presented at least one performance of Sadanam Balakrishnan. He was then the chief of the International Centre for Kathakali in Delhi, so we invited him to Kerala during the summer vacation months. His performances attracted a good crowd of Kathakali enthusiasts from far and near. He was not a ‘star’ yet, but Kathakali aficionados loved him. His performances, like those of his mentor Keezhpadam Kumaran Nair, were extremely neat. He imparted dignity to both the character and the play, even if the character he was playing was ‘rajasic’ or wicked. He respected his co-actors and accompanying musicians, and gave them their space. His portrayals were a real feast for head and heart alike. His performances were for learned audiences. Last year, sitting in the campus of Kalakshetra in Chennai, I asked Sadanam Balakrishnan a question my mother often asked me some 25 years ago: “Why did he move to Delhi? Would he not miss his space in Kerala and the art a talented actor?”
HERITAGE - Uphill all the way by GOWRI RAMNARAYAN
Ice cream? No madam. How can we serve ice cream when we have electricity for only two hours in the morning and two hours at night? This answer I received from hotel service staff was not in some remote, inaccessible village, but in a restaurant on one of the main streets of Imphal, the capital of Manipur, India. Later, I asked my escort to the theatre institute Kalakshetra, Manipur, “So, people don’t have refrigerators at home?” He replied matter-of-factly, “Oh, they have refrigerators. Only, they can’t use them.” Then what’s the use of having a fridge anyway? He explained kindly, “Makes a good cupboard.” Meanwhile, the car was squeezing itself through a narrow lane wedged with hardware stores and groaning with generators of all sizes. Pointing, our gentle guide said, “That’s how we manage.” What do the poor do? I asked. He shrugged.
NEWS & NOTES - Mummoortigal jayanti at Tiruvarur by S. SIVARAMAKRISHNAN
An annual Mummoortigal Jayanti Isai Vizha, is jointly conducted by the Sri Kanchikamakoti Peetha Karnataka Sangeeta Seva Trust and the Sri Kanchikamakoti Peetha Karnataka Sangeeta Seva Samiti to celebrate the ‘janma nakshatram’ (birthstars) of the vaggeyakara-s at Tiruvarur, the birthplace of the Trinity of Carnatic music – Syama Sastry, Tyagaraja and Muthuswami Dikshitar. Noted mridanga vidwan, Tiruvarur Bhakthavatsalam, the organizing secretary, is supported by a team of enthusiasts in the conduct of the festival. This year, the event was held during 23-29 April in the precincts of the Tyagarajaswamy Kamalamba temple. Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam inaugurated the festival in which violin maestro T.N. Krishnan presented the title ‘Sangita Mummorthigal Seva Ratna’ to veteran vocalist P.S. Narayanaswamy, who was felicitated by A.K.C. Natarajan. The inaugural function was attended by several stalwarts of music, dance and theatre, apart from executives of the government departments and local administration.