Mannargudi A. Easwaran is a reputed and popular mridanga vidwan, who through his exemplary ability to enhance, embellish and admirably blend with any style of music, has carved a niche for himself in the field of Carnatic music. Born on 1 April 1947, in a family that boasts of a lineage of Appayya Dikshitar, a great Sanskrit scholar of the 17th century, Easwaran began his musical journey when he was only four years old and learnt this art from two giants, Kuniseri U. Krishnamani Iyer and Guruvayur Dorai. He began performing at an early age at sabhas, music festivals, and conferences organised by various institutions. He had his formal debut on 12 October 1958 in Chennai. Easwaran recalls with pride and emotion that he prefixed the name of his ancestral village as directed by the Kanchi Paramacharya and became famous as Mannargudi A. Easwaran. He also cherishes the gift from his father—a gold chain with single rudraksha—which he always wears around his neck.
Lalitha Srinivasan’s house is at the heart of Malleswaram in Bengaluru, a neighbourhood that is home to many classical musicians and dancers. She has lived here for almost six decades, and taught dance from her present address for the last 40 years. When she is not busy with activities related to her Nupura School of Bharatanatyam, she could be seen presiding over the many dance events in the city, as the seniormost representative of the Mysore style of Bharatanatyam. Born in Shivanasamudra, Lalitha spent much of her younger years being shuffled from one small town in Karnataka to another because of her father’s job. She remembers being captivated by dancers like U.S. Krishna Rao, Chandrabhaga Devi, Maya Rao and others who would perform at the Congress Exhibition during the jatre (temple fair) at Jog. After completing high school, she was sent to live with her elder brother’s family in Bengaluru to continue her studies uninterrupted. Providentially, Guru H.R. Keshava Murthy was teaching Bharatanatyam at his Keshava Nritya Shala just a couple of streets away and Lalitha wasted no time in joining his classes.
I was born on 11 May 1939 in Madras to Rajah R.J.K. Ranga Rao, popularly known as the Zamindar of Chikkavaram and Rani Saraswathi Devi, after two daughters. Delirious and eager to convey the good news to his mother, my father crashed his Ford tourer into the gatepost. We were royalty and childbirth took place at home. This was ‘Orattah’, a rented house where the M.O.P. Vaishnav College now stands. It was a sizzling summer, I have been told. Consequently perhaps, I am still sizzling, now taken up by song-and-dance, now captivated by literature. Happily, these haven’t been childhood pastimes or youthful infatuations. They still hold me tight, enrapture, entangle and inspire me. I was around three when my mother’s wind-up gramophone (a part of her dowry) fascinated me. Once or twice a week, I would sit still as my mother heard a few 78 rpm records. By the time I was five, I was requesting that particular songs be played for me. By seven, I could do all of it by myself.
Celebrations for living legends lend a special charm—we have the celebrity on stage to savour and respond to the heap of accolades. Sangita Kalanidhi, Akademi Ratna M. Chandrasekaran’s 80th birth anniversary celebrations on 8 July 2018 was an example. The TTK auditorium of the Madras Music Academy saw a very good turnout of rasikas, musicians and disciples of the violin maestro. The event was significant as it marked 70 years of service to Carnatic music by the vidwan. His association with generations of musicians was illustrated in a beautifully designed invitation card.
6 News & Notes
12 Obituary v Geetha Bennett
14 Birthday calendar
16 Mannargudi A. Easwaran
30 Lalitha Srinivasan
36 First person v V.A.K. Ranga Rao
42 Window to the world v Indian music and the West
45 Arts abroad v Nada Vipanchi
50 Challenges to artistic conventions
52 Talking theatre v Where East meets West (part 2)
54 From the Editor
Cover: Lalitha Srinivasan,
V.A.K. Ranga Rao (photo by Mahesh Kumar),
Mannargudi Easwaran (photo by Shankar Ramachandran)