COVER STORY - Storyteller par excellence by VAMANAN
Kothamangalam Subbu was many things all at once – actor, writer, director, lyricist, poet, performer and novelist par excellence. From a timber store clerk whose formal education ended with class eight, he rose to be a tall renaissance man during the freedom struggle. Vitriolic wit, character actor, folksy poet, effective story-teller on celluloid and paper, and great impresario, all rolled into one, he made his home resound to the strains of Carnatic music year after year. When he lost his job of twenty years at Gemini Studios, he adopted the mantle of a people’s performer, telling inspiring tales spiced with snatches of poetry and song as a performer of villupattu, a popular folk art. He was born S.M. Subramaniam in the nondescript village of Kannaariyendal near Avudayarkovil, the pilgrim centre famous for its fabulously sculptured Siva temple and its ‘formless’ lingam, identified only by the base of the structure. The region was dominated by the Nattukottai Chettiars and Subbu’s father Mahalinga Iyer worked in a Chettiar’s house. Ties of the extended family were still strong in the early decades of the 20th century, and Subbu is said to have given up his education with the second form (seventh class), to support his bereaved paternal aunt’s family. After varied jobs he moved to nearby Kothamangalam in early 1930 to marry another paternal aunt’s daughter Alamelu.
OPINION - Stars and others by K.S. KALIDAS
In the midst of all the fire and brimstone, it is heartening that there are a few sober and temperate vocalists who value subtlety and understatement in spite of possessing vidwat that is no less than that of the stars. Sumitra Vasudev is one but she has moved out of the junior grade. Two other vocalists in this category are Aishwarya Vidya Raghunath of Bengaluru and Anirudh Venkatesh, a final year engineering student in Stanford University, U.S.A. Incidentally, both are students of vidwan P.S. Narayanaswamy. The former is also a concurrent disciple of Vegavahini, daughter of late T. Brinda. She succeeds in seamless melding of the two styles while rendering kritis (and of course padams and javalis), and has a certain mellow grace not found in other female vocalists. Anirudh Venkatesh cuts down melodrama in his music and makes musical statements relevant to good music. Both of them are immensely talented and their basics are very strong. In time, they will grow into important artists. Listeners may not buy a 500-rupee ticket to stand in the aisle of the concert hall to hear them but a considerable number of listeners with refinement will not miss their concerts. Two sixteen year-olds attracted a great deal of attention and admiration. Kamalakiran Vinjamuri, a violinist from the U.S.A. has been flooring audiences everywhere and so has Akshay Anand (mridangam) from Bengaluru. They are bound to grow up into great vidwans if they stay fully focused. Violinist Apoorva Anand of Bengaluru, also in the same age group, is equally promising.
SPOTLIGHT - An exemplary artist, at 80 by MEENA BANERJEE
Born and brought up in Uttar Pradesh, the heartland of Hindustani classical music – where such vocal and instrumental gharanas as the Agra, Kirana, Lucknow, Benares, Rampur and Shahjahanpur originated and flowered – I was under the impression that sangeet-sadhana and formal education, somehow, did not blend. We, the commoners, were encouraged to cultivate art as hobbies, while gharanedar musicians seemed to maintain that the music or dance aspirant must drink and breathe music 24x7. In that case why waste time in school and college, leave alone university? Under the circumstances, practising musicians, while remaining faithful to their family’s artistic traditions, secluded themselves from the dynamics of education and science related to their art. This was never so in Bengal. Despite their love for music, the Bengalis did not neglect formal education. Most of them ‘acquired’ rather than ‘inherited’ music from their gharanedar ustads who migrated here from strife-ridden and unstable northern provinces in search of peace. Surprisingly, Vijay Kichlu, the founder-director of ITC Sangeet Research Academy, Kolkata, very caringly nurtured the doctrine of keeping formal education at bay, probably because his hand-picked ustads fanatically believed in this demarcation.
NEWS & NOTES - Encouraging young talent and honouring the old by VIJAY SHANKER
Distinguished personalities in the field of arts and literature were honoured during Nalanda Nrityotsava 2013. The stalwarts who received the Nalanda Bharata Muni Award were vidwan M. Balamuralikrishna (music), Dr. Vijaya Mehta (theatre), Adyar Lakshman (Bharatanatyam) and Prof. R. Satyanarayana (literature). A number of young dancers were featured in the festival. Nupur Daithankar, Pallavi Phaujadar, Barkha Patel, Murugashankari, Nivedita Ganeshram, and Vanitha M.D. were among those who created a lasting impression this year. Nupur Daithankar is blessed with a striking personality, and her stances and movements were precise and articulate. Ambika Vishwanath impressed with her powerful vocal rendering. Barkha Patel (U.S.A.) is a disciple of Kathak exponent Rachana Sarang. She danced with confidence and precision while executing intricate footwork, her abhinaya was also pleasing to watch. Pallavi Phaujadar from Nalanda, impressed the audience with her sincerity and involvement. Nivedita and Vanitha’s dancing was noteworthy for the quality of elegance and clarity of movements. Murugashankari from Chennai was among the most vivacious performers at the festival, dancing with typical joie-de-vivre. The varnam she performed in praise of Lord Sundareswara was pleasing for its stylistic and expressional quality. Malabi Choudhury, disciple of renowned exponent Darshana Jhaveri. performed Anangakshep, Prabandha Nartan and Krishna Tandava with professional ease.