M.S. Anantharaman, a Carnatic music icon who straddled the 20th and 21st centuries as a performing violinist and guru, passed away in February, bringing to an end a rare period in contemporary history of at least three generations of the Parur Sundaram Iyer lineage performing contemporaneously on stage—solo, accompanying vocalists or sometimes together. For, in recent years, Anantharaman, elder brother of the late M.S. Gopalakrishnan, gave solo concerts as well as performances along with his sons Sundareswaran and Krishnaswami and his grandsons, not to mention the occasional stage appearance with a granddaughter. In his prime, he accompanied almost every stalwart among the great vocalists of his generation. Born on 26 August 1924 in Madras, Anantharaman was a son and disciple of Parur A. Sundaram Iyer, the eminent violinist and pioneering guru responsible for the spread of the violin beyond Carnatic music into Hindustani music as well. Anantharaman received training in playing the veena as well as the violin, and in Hindustani music. A demanding teacher with a fine reputation, he served the Tamil Nadu Government Music College in Chennai as professor of violin from 1962 to 1983. Later, he taught in Pittsburgh, U.S.A., for some time. Anantharaman was a recipient of the Kalaimamani award of the Tamil Nadu Eyal Isai Nataka Manram, the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1998), the T.T.K. (1996) and Sangita Kala Acharya awards (2003) of the Music Academy. He was the Asthana Vidwan of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham.
For most of her first 50 years, she was celebrated for her beauty and charm. For the next 35 years of untold suffering, she was an invalid, steadily declining in health, wheelchair bound, needing a caregiver all the time. She was totally bedridden towards the end of her life—which came on 1 January 2018. This was the tragedy of Radha Viswanathan, M.S. Subbulakshmi’s stepdaughter, steadfast companion and sterling vocal accompanist. That a woman who suffered so much could remain ever cheerful, unfailingly optimistic, continue to be interested in the lives of those dear to her, and get some fun out of her own life, was not just amazing, it made her a motivational force, a role model. And who was Radha’s heroine? This little incident tells us. The venerable maestro with oil massaged into his skimpy tuft is seated on the swing in the verandah, singing an expansive Todi, as he waits to take his morning bath. A child is working on her sums close by. Suddenly, the singer exclaims, “I simply can’t sing the high notes like your mother!” To his great amusement, the little girl responds matter-of-factly, “Adudaan teriyume!” (Of course, we know that!).
An exciting slew of events has been planned to celebrate the centenary of one of Carnatic music’s enduring icons starting on Saturday 17 March and culminating in her 100th birth anniversary on 19th March 2019. Sruti’s inaugural issue proved an instant success as it had Sangita Kalanidhi D.K. Pattammal on the cover. She was in many ways a pioneer among Carnatic vocalists, and we called her a trailblazing traditionalist. It is no secret that in the conservative south Indian milieu of the first half of the twentieth century, women were expected to take care of home and hearth, not venturing out even to practise the arts. The performing arts, not considered very respectable in Victorian India, had just about emerged from the shadow of social stigma, and were now dominated by men. In a remarkable turn of events that so often surprise us in the melting pot that is India, it was the intervention of the headmistress of the convent school she went to in the temple town of Kanchipuram that prevented young Pattammal from going the way of many upper caste Tamil girls.
Keerti Shiledar is arguably the last custodian of the Marathi sangeet-natak tradition, both in her surname and authority. Daughter of Jairam and Jaimala Shiledar, she has been associated with the sangeet-natak theatre since the age of ten. Along with classic plays like Saubhadra, Manapman, Mrichchakatika, Sanshaykallol, she has also acted in modern plays like Chandramadhabi and Mandodari. So far, she has played 42 different roles in 24 plays with over 4000 shows in all. For several years now, she has been in charge of the theatre group Marathi Rangbhumi, founded by her parents, in Pune. A graduate of Pune University, a recognised artist of Akashvani, she has performed in many concerts in India and abroad. She presents lecture-demonstrations on sangeet-natak theatre at the National School of Drama in Delhi, Kala Academy in Goa, and Lalit Kala Kendra in Pune University, on a regular basis. She has been a member of the General Council of the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi as a representative from Maharashtra. She has been honoured with many awards and recognitions like Bal Gandharva Samman, Natya Sevavrati, Abasaheb Mujumdar, Chhota Gandharva, and the Zee award. M.E.
6 Readers write
10 News & Notes
14 Birthday calendar
16 M.S. Anantharaman
19 Radha Viswanathan
24 DKP 100
26 Bala Century
34 Tributes v Gnani V. Sankaran v A. Seshan
v Pandanallur Jayalakshmi
41 State of the art v Carnatic music in Karnataka
45 App choice v Music learning apps
48 The remarkable tradition of sangeet-natak
v Keerti Shiledar
53 Perspective v Are tabla gharanas relevant today?
55 News & Notes (continued)
60 From the wings v Sakthivel Muruganantham
62 From the Editor
Front Cover: Radha Viswanathan and M.S. Anantharaman