Song of Surrender

Monday, 19 February 2018

Theatre Olynpics

A protest by a playwright


Click below to read an article by Sunil Shanbag in the New Indian Express

http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/note-from-a-theatre-wallah-8th-theatre-olympics-5066980/

MS Anantharaman passes away

Violin maestro Parur MS Anantharaman is no more.

                                                 

We are deeply distressed to receive news of the death of violin great M.S. Anantharaman, early morning on 19.2.2018 at Chennai.

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 long-time exponent, Anatharaman besides giving solo recitals and trio concerts with his two violin-playing sons, accompanied many renowned musicians in their performances in India and abroad. A teacher with a fine reputation, he served the Tamil Nadu Government Music College in Chennai as professor of violin from 1962 to 1983. Subsequently, he taught in Pittsburgh, U.S.A., for some time.

Anantharaman was honoured with the Kalaimamani award of the Tamil Nadu Eyal Isai Nataka Manram, the T.T.K memorial award of the Music Academy (1996) and the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1998). He was the Asthana Vidwan of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Sharad Sathe

                                                             Birthdays & Anniversaries


Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan

Birthdays & Anniversaries

18.2.1929
Sitar maestro Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan, who passed away at his Bandra (Mumbai) residence on 4 January 2017, was in the league of such great names in the field as Ravi Shankar, Vilayat Khan and Nikhil Banerjee. He effortlessly straddled the worlds of Hindustani classical music and Hindi cinema, and established ‘Jafferkhani baaj’—a unique style of playing the instrument. He was highly decorated, receiving such awards as the Tantri Vilas, Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, Tagore Samman and the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.

How did Halim Jaffer Khan achieve such eminence at a time when the legendary sitar triumvirate were at their peak? This question haunted me, and I put it to him when, during his last Kolkata visit in 2004, I met him at the residence of his prime disciple Harashankar Bhattacharya, whom he fondly addressed as his ‘bada beta’ (elder son). He took the question very sportingly and answered, “Riyaaz ki roshni ne raah kar di” (Devoted practice illuminated my path) and my disciples are now following it. In 1976, I founded the Halim Academy of Sitar in Mumbai. Zunain, my sondisciple and a few dedicated disciples like Prasad Joglekar and Gargi Shinde have come forward to take care of the Academy; and Harashankar founded Madhyami here in Kolkata to promote and propagate Jafferkhani baaj. His boy Deepshankar is showing great promise of keeping the flag flying high.”

I asked him why he called his style ‘Jafferkhani’ and not ‘Indore’ as a member of the Indore beenkar Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan (1927-2017) Meena Banerjee gharana that follows the tradition of Ustad Bande Ali Khan. He patiently explained that since his playing method had experienced a paradigm shift from the tradition he belonged to, and since his singer father had sowed the seeds to invent new traditions within the tradition, he dedicated this baaj to his father Jaffer Khan.

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Saturday, 17 February 2018

Ranjani - Gayatri Honoured


Carnatic vocalists Ranjani and Gayatri were conferred the title “Sangeeta Vedantha Dhurina” during the Spring Music Festival of the Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandira. The award was presented by Sri Yadugiri Yathiraja Narayana Ramanuja Jeeyar on 11 February 2018 in Bengaluru. This award is instituted in memory of the founder G. Vedantha Iyengar who started the institution 63 years ago. The award carries a purse of ₹ one lakh each, a citation and a silver medal. 

Photo Caption

Standing (L to R): M.R. Yoganand (Treasurer, SRLKM), D.R. Srikantaiah (President), Sri Yadugiri Yathiraja Narayana Ramanuja Jeeyar, G.V. Krishna Prasad (Secretary), Rajashree Yogananda (Programme Co-ordinator) and H.R. Yathiraj (Vice President).

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Radha Reddy

Birthdays & Anniversaries

15.2.1952
Radha and Raja Reddy are the most famous duo performing and teaching Kuchipudi. Radha was born on 15 February 1952 in Gottalgaon, Andhra Pradesh. When Radha was about 13 years old, she wanted to dance and so did Raja whom she was married to when very young. They trained at Sri Siddhendra Kalakshetram in Kuchipudi village and at Kalakshetram, Eluru.  Both of them went to Hyderabad and learnt Kuchipudi during their gurukulavasam with Vedantam Prahlada Sarma. With a scholarship from the Andhra Pradesh state government, the duo moved to Delhi in 1966 to learn choreography from Guru Maya Rao at the Natya Institute of Choreography. Briefly, Radha also learnt Odissi from Mayadhar Raut.

Radha and Raja performed in the youth festival of  the Sangeet Natak Akademi, and soon made a name as a  dancing duo. For two years they also performed in Indrani Rehman's troupe. Radha and Raja  Reddy were invited to perform at the Avignon Festival in France and the Salzburg Festival in Austria where they received standing ovations. They have performed at the Festivals of India in the U.S.A., the U.K. and Bangladesh, at the All-star Ballet Gala Festival in Japan, on the Mississippi river for US President Ford, and a galaxy of notable personalities across the globe.

In their careers spanning over six decades, Radha and Raja Reddy have made a distinctive contribution to the enrichment of Kuchipudi dance. They have developed excellent solo, duo and group presentations and have been teaching Kuchipudi and yoga at their institution Natya Tarangini, in Delhi. A much awaited event is the 'Parampara Series' Festival of Dance and Music launched by the Reddys 20 years ago. The state-of-the-art centre built by them at Saket in Delhi is emerging as an important space to propagate Indian art and culture. Radha and Raja Reddy have been conferred prestigious awards like the Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, and the Nritya Choodamani Award. The couple have been selected to receive the Kalidas Samman this year from the state government of Madhya Pradesh.

Mani Madhava Chakyar

Birthdays & Anniversaries
15.2.1899 - 14.1.1990 
A member of the clan of the Puthiyedath Chakyar, Madhava Chakyar was born in a village near Quilandy in old Malabar on 15 February 1899. Dancing and acting were in the blood of the family, and Madhava Chakyar had his early training with his mother, whom he lost at the age of nine, Kuniyil Narayanan Nambisan, and afterwards with his uncles, Mani Neelakanta Chakyar, Parameswara Chakyar and Narayana Chakyar. Along with his dance studies, he also learnt Sanskrit from Pannisseri Sankaran Nambudripad and tarka sastra and vedanta from H. H. Rama Varma Parikshit Tampuran of Cochin.

Madhava Chakyar had his arangetram at the age of 11 in Tiruvangayoor Siva temple. From then on he began giving regular performances in various temples. His family had hereditary rights to perform in 40 temples in north and central Kerala. Some of them allowed only Chakyar Koothu to be performed under their auspices, while others encouraged the entire gamut of Koodiyattam, including the ritualistic performance of Anguliankam, and Mathavilasam. Madhava Chakyar won high renown for the artistry of his performance in these temples, as well as in many others. His forte was netraabhinaya, the expressive use of eyes to demonstrate a wide range of emotions. Over the years, Chakyar gave performances outside Kerala too -- in Madras, Bombay, Delhi, Benares, Ujjain and Bhopal, and also before the senior Sankaracharya of Kanchi.

Chakyar taught at Kerala Kalamandalam where he trained advanced students in Kathakali and Koodiyattam. He taught Kathakali also at the P. S.V. Natya Sangham in Kottakkal, and the Gandhi Sevasadanam in Perur. For some time he also taught Sanskrit at the Sanskrit school in Lakkiti where he had his home.

                                          To read full story, visit sruti.com and buy Sruti 71

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

C S Murugabhoopathy

                                                               Birthdays & Anniversaries

14.2.1914 - 21.3.1998

Professor P. Sambamoorthy

Birthdays & Anniversaries

14.2.1901 - 23.10.1973
Professor P. Sambamoorthy was the musicologist of the century", said Professor S.R. Janakiraman, himself a musicologist. Sambamoorthy was the author of more than fifty books and as many articles on music and musicology and a legend in his own lifetime. He was a teacher of music, a pioneer in introducing music teaching in educational institutions, an organiser of sabha-s, one of the founding fathers of the Music Academy, a composer of various musical forms, and a conductor of an orchestra of Carnatic music. He travelled widely and was recognized as an ambassador of South Indian music.

Sambamoorthy was born on 14th February 1901 to Pitchu Iyer and Parvati Ammal. He was the youngest of five children. His ancestors were originally from Varahur in Tanjavur District. According to his horoscope, however, his date of birth was 21st February 1900. Varahur, of course, is the place associated with Narayana Teertha, the author of Krishna Leela Tarangini. He lost his father when he was only four

years old. Thereafter, he and his mother came to Madras and settled down at No. 205 Thambu Chetty Street. His mother used to narrate to him stories from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Peria Puranam and also taught him a number of songs. He had his elementary school education in Arya Pathasala (now defunct) in Thambu Chetty Street. He joined the St. Gabriel's High school in 1910 and passed out of it in the year 1916, during which period he was the recipient of a Government scholarship.

                                  To read full story, visit sruti.com and buy Sruti 251

Monday, 12 February 2018

Refreshing developments

K.N. Viswanathan

This season threw up some promising youngsters and surprising stars in music. To my pleasant surprise, I found that many young musicians had adopted a more open, bold akaram this time, especially in raga alapana, as compared to previous seasons. The following artists’ concerts stood out for me.

Amritha Murali’s performance at Nada Inbam on 1 January 2018, was an outstanding concert. She is clearly an emerging star, whose music needs to be followed closely.

Ramakrishnan Murthy’s music seems to be growing along disciplined lines. He stays away from unnecessary showmanship and cheap gimmicks, an admirable trait that needs to be emulated by young musicians.

Bharat Sundar did justice to his elevated slot at the Music Academy. He made a sincere attempt at singing in the higher octave in the Kambhoji raga alapana, with akaram driven phrases.

Vishnudev Namboodiri, in my opinion, deserves a break in the senior slot at the Music Academy. His music is of a high calibre.


Kalyanapuram Aravind gave an impressive concert at the Music Academy. His singing has much promise, provided he does not engage in excessive brigas and trains to sing with less vocal strain. I hope he continuesto maintain a sense of proportion in concerts, without going overboard in the manodharma sections.

Flutist J.A. Jayanth played a magnificent concert at the Music Academy. He is yet another artist whose music is worth following closely. He deserves a promotion to the senior slot at the Academy.

In their concert at Musiri Chamber, the Iyer Brothers from Australia, proved that they are seasoned professionals. It was a delight to listen to the pure, unadulterated tone of their veenas in perfect unison.

In sharp contrast, Jayanthi Kumaresh’s recital at the Music Academy, which was outstanding musically, was disappointing only because of the mandolin-like tone of her veena. It seemed to detract from the grandeur of her music.

Two less known artists drew attention for their performances this season: Aditya Prakash and Navaneet Krishnan performed on 31st December evening at Sastri Hall for the Sruti Pattabhiraman Memorial concerts. They were accompanied by heavy-weight veterans, and managed to carry their concerts with much aplomb.

I was particularly impressed by the way they apportioned their concerts, in such a manner that the post-main section was given as much importance as the pre-main and main sections of the concert.

Some senior artists thoroughly disappointed this season with poor raga choices for elaboration and ragam-tanam-pallavi. Ragas like Vasantabhairavi, Saramati and Hameer Kalyani were not ideal choices for elaborate manodharma.


A certain senior artist seems to have become careless and lackadaisical in performing, more so in recent years. Odd, non-musical sounds during raga alapana and high decibel shouting seem to have become the norm in the singer’s concerts. Yet the crowds continue to mill, mistaking the aural assault for music. It is a pity, because this musician is capable of much greater music. The only consolation that I can take home after attending a recital, is that he continues to maintain concert dharma.


A few artists in the sub-senior slot at the Music Academy did not provide the song list this year. I hope the Academy will strictly enforce the rule that artists must provide the song list in advance; especially the junior and sub-senior musicians. It shows a certain sense of discipline and commitment on behalf of the artist, rather than trying to “wing it”, singing a surprise list of songs and ragas, often falling flat.


I personally feel that varnams must be made compulsory as the opening piece at the Music Academy, especially for junior and sub-senior artists. Many musicians and rasikas feel that the varnam is merely a warming up exercise and relegate to it an unimportant status. This is not so. If there is anything we can learn from the concert planning of the old stalwarts, it is that the varnam is a crucial entry point for both the performer and the listener, into deeper raga bhava. A judicious choice of varnam at the beginning of the concert can set the pace and tone for the rest of the concert, ensuring consistent success for the musician.

It was a pleasant surprise to see many young musicians take up weighty ragas like Kambhoji (one might even say it was a Kambhoji season), Bhairavi, Kharaharapriya and Todi for elaboration, especially in the pallavi section.

In general, I felt that with better time management, more time could have been apportioned to the post-main section. In many ways, this section helps take the concert to a sublime plane. After the heavy-duty manodharma and tani avartanam for the main piece, the post-main section provides a beautiful contrast. A selection of songs rich in lyrical beauty allows the artist to raise the concert to a different level. This section, when done well and kept free of exhibitionism and technical acrobatics, helps connect with the listener at a deeper level.

(Disclaimer: In all fairness to artists not featured here, I did not attend all the concerts.)
(The author is a rasika)

Rama Ravi

Birthdays & Anniversaries

12.2.1943
“Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear
 Full many a flower is born to blush unseen
And waste its sweetness on the desert air”

These famous lines of Thomas Gray, although in an altogether different context, seem to describe the status given to some of our most accomplished musicians. Closer home, Subramania Bharati’s “Nallador veenai seidey, adai nalam keda puzhudiyil erivathundo,” conveys similar meaning.
 To a large extent, the two quotations fit the classical vocalist and musicologist Rama Ravi (66), seldom heard in sabha-s. The description “complete musician” fits Rama Ravi better than many more successful musicians.

When I told a friend – a frequent concertgoer – I was going to attend Rama Ravi’s concert one particular evening, his immediate response was, “What? That padam-javali singer’s concert? And that slow music?” He is certainly entitled to his opinions but what about the musical fraternity? The rasika-s, vidwans, sabha-s? It is unfortunate that quite a few of them do share this view to a greater or lesser extent.

The fact is that Rama Ravi’s is vintage music; it is great music. It is not exuberant, not exhibitionist; nor is it dull or pedestrian. To appreciate her music, one has to shed one’s inhibitions and preconceived notions. Indeed one has to take a few steps to meet her and appreciate her music. It is not that her music is esoteric or mysterious; it is highly nuanced and stylised.

                               To read full story, visit sruti.com and buy Sruti 302

Chandru Anna

A youthful veteran

By V Ramnarayan

First published in The Bengal Post on 12 Feb 2011

When CV Chandrasekhar, Bharatanatyam guru and this year’s Padma Bhushan awardee, dances before the beautiful Panduranga idol at Tennangur, a hamlet in Tiruvannamalai district of Tamil Nadu, it is an act of total surrender. What is special about this offering is that its sense of abandon is accompanied by total control and precision, perfect abhinaya or expression and nritta, or footwork, in the best classical traditions. The dancer is a mere 75.

For Chandru Anna, as every dancer young or old addresses him, it is part of an annual ritual in which he leads some 30 to 40 students and teachers of his art form in a three-day workshop, held at a large facility adjacent to the temple in this centre of pilgrimage. On two evenings during the workshop, all the participants dance before the deity, swinging into ecstatic action during the dolotsavam, when the idol is worshipped in a cradle, and the garudotsavam, a procession around the temple, with the local residents and visiting pilgrims joining them. So many professional and amateur artists coming together in such a joyous celebration of their art in a temple ambience must indeed be a rare spectacle 

The workshop called Natya Sangraham, now in its twelfth year, with Chandrasekhar presiding over eleven of them (he missed one through illness), is organised by Natyarangam, the dance wing of the Narada Gana Sabha, one of Chennai’s major sabhas, typically south Indian institutions that conduct music, dance and theatrical programmes for their subscriber members and the general public. Experts from the fields of dance, music, poetry and theatre engage the participants, mostly young dancers and dance teachers, in academic and practical sessions on predetermined topics. The daylong activity is stimulating and rigorous, but the delegates are housed in considerable comfort and served delicious vegetarian food. The informal post-prandial ‘tinnai’ sessions at night are an opportunity to listen to stories from the rich past of the stalwarts and discuss current issues affecting the performing arts scene. The whole event has the blessings of the movement behind the temple, the GA Trust—founded by the followers of the late Swami Gnananda Giri—which among other things extends the best in education and healthcare to a number of villages in the vicinity. Adding to the atmosphere is the architectural beauty of the temple—built under the auspices of the late Swami Haridas Giri, Gnananda’s disciple, in the authentic old style of the Puri Jagannath temple—and its gopurams in the Pandya style.

I first came into contact with Chandru Anna, when he and Leela Samson, at present director of Kalakshetra of Chennai and Sangeet Natak Akademi, gave a thrilling performance of a tillana—the southern equivalent of a tarana—in praise of Rukmini Devi Arundale, founder of Kalakshetra on her 80th birthday, more than a couple of decades ago. A youthful fifty-something then, Chandrasekhar was then head of the department of dance in Maharaja Sayajirao (MS) University, Baroda. An alumnus of Kalakshetra, which he joined as a boy in 1945, Chandru Anna later went to Benares Hindu University where he did a masters in botany and taught for a while before moving to MS University, where he eventually became Principal. He served there till his retirement, relocating at Chennai some ten years ago. His wife Jaya and daughters Chitra and Manjari are Bharata Natyam dancers, too, and the Chandrasekhars are well known for their many productions that include both solo performances and dance drama. Chandrasekhar has choreographed and produced many dance dramas including Bhumija, Meghadutam, Ritu Samharam and Aparajita, showing a marked liking for the classics of Kalidasa. Jaya learnt Bharata Natyam from Lalita Sastri of Delhi, Kathak from Birju Maharaj, the maestro of the Lucknow gharana, and Odissi from the one and only Kelucharan Mahapatra. She too taught at BHU, MS University and later at her own institution Nityashree in Baroda.

Chandrasekhar is a rare amalgam of varied influences. A south Indian who started school in Delhi, he graduated in dance from Kalakshetra and botany from Vivekananda College, Madras. Well versed in Carnatic music, he grew comfortable with Hindustani as well as folk forms of music during his long years in Gujarat. His travels overseas, beginning with his tour of China in the 1960s as a member of a cultural delegation, brought him a sophisticated awareness of art forms and trends everywhere. While quite at home in so many diverse milieus, Chandrasekhar remains firmly rooted in the austere traditions of the classical dance he learnt from great gurus at Kalakshetra. Clean lines and good taste characterize his every move.

A vastly experienced performer and guru, and among the most accessible veterans of his art, Chandrasekhar is superbly fit and still able to dance like a young man. He is a giving teacher, holding nothing back while sharing his accumulated wisdom with his students and the participants at the annual workshop. 

The high point of this year’s Natya Sangraham was his demonstration of a complex, physically demanding composition of his to the accompaniment of thunderous applause from students and faculty. It was a memorable moment that brought tears to the eyes of the onlookers.Posted by Ramnarayan at 1:24 AM 

Saturday, 10 February 2018

The Compleat Rasika

A Seshan

By Seshan Ramaswami

A Seshan, a Sruti subscriber since its inception, and a regular contributor (often under the nom-de-plume Sankarabharanan) of articles and letters to the magazine, passed away in Mumbai on 7 January 2018.

Seshan was an accomplished economist, with a lifetime of service at the Reserve Bank of India. He retired voluntarily as Officer-in-Charge, Department of  Economic Analysis and Policy, in the early 1990s, to take up assignments as the IMF-appointed Advisers to the central banks of  Kyrgyzstan, and then Sierra Leone. He excelled academically, topping Madura College in his B.A.  (Economics) degree, and  earning  a  gold  medal.  He had an M.A. from Madras Christian College, before proceeding to the University of Hawaii on an East West Centre scholarship for a Masters in Agricultural Economics, when  he spent a semester at Cornell University.  Of his lifetime of work in the RBI, former RBI governor Y.V. Reddy is quoted in a Business Line tribute published on 11 January  2018, as saying, “He was absolutely thorough, well-respected and one of my earliest gurus in the RBI.”

Throughout his work life, he would type all communications, personal and professional, on a small portable typewriter, with an unusual cursive/handwriting font, which was his lone material acquisition from his years in the USA!  One look at the envelope, and you could recognise the sender from the font! Later, he mastered the use of word processing software and the Internet, and was a regular contributor to the pink papers on monetary policy matters. He would listen to the policy announcement each quarter, and within a couple of hours, send the commissioned commentary to the press for publication the next day. The Business Line and Business Standard, carried many of his articles, and letters, but he wrote for almost all the Mumbai dailies.

His passion from his childhood days was Carnatic music, which gradually expanded to Hindustani music, Bharatanatyam, Western music and all forms of the performing arts.  When he first moved to Mumbai in the sixties, he became the close confidant of the late vainika maestro Devakottai Narayana Iyengar, and would do all the correspondence to AIR, Sangeet Natak Akademi, and sabhas for “veena master,” as we used to refer to the vidwan. He also taught Seshan’s wife, Bhanumathi (grand-daughter of the late F.G. Natesa Iyer, and from a very illustrious musical family), and Seshan himself learnt to play for a while, and would forever proudly tell everyone, with a twinkle in his eye, about his own prowess in playing the Abhogi varnam.  As a patron member of the Shanmukhananda Sabha, and a member of the NCPA in Mumbai, he would insist on attending practically every concert offering of all genres, much to the despair of his family who were increasingly concerned with the strain on his body as he aged!  

With his scholarly bent, and general intellectual temperament, Seshan was a thoughtful and serious rasika, and an obsessive collector of books on music and dance. He had a massive collection of spool tapes of concert recordings, records, cassettes, CDs, and DVDs.  A Madurai-vasi for much of his childhood, he would reminisce about the huge crowds at Sethupathi High School for concerts of the great vidwans and vidushis of the 1940s and 50s. He was an obsessive fan of M.S. Subbulakshmi, and  collected all her Meera film songs on 78 rpm records. And he then would dutifully purchase every single new LP release of her (on a “first day first show” basis). He assiduously recorded on a spool player, radio concerts of all the great masters, and then type up the song lists and file them carefully. And then he would disrupt our sleep early each morning by blaring those concerts at full volume as a sort of suprabhatam to the neighbourhood! And then, by osmosis, both my brother, Ananthanarayana Sharma, and I could not resist the absorption of this music into our very living cells and we are both today rasikas, but not of the stature and passion of our father.  We ourselves learnt some music formally later, my brother learning the tabla, and I learning veena and Hindustani vocal music.

Seshan was extremely excited by the launch of Sruti and was in regular correspondence with the late Sruti Pattabhi Raman, and then with V.  Ramnarayan. He would regularly write letters and had several articles published in the magazine on a variety of topics. His superb command of the English language, combined with his vast experience of passionate, thoughtful listening to music, and his deep interest in and knowledge of the history of Indian music, gave all his articles that touch of class.  He once wrote an award winning essay in a Sruti competition, on M.S. Subbulakshmi, which he titled the 'Compleat Musician' (an obscure reference to The Compleat Angler, a classic work on fishing), and was dismayed when the editor attempted to correct his spelling to “Complete”, which did not quite convey the exceptional completeness of MS’s music.  He was a devoted fan of  Madurai Mani Iyer, D.K. Pattammal, G.N. Balasubramaniam, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, M.D.  Ramanathan, M. Balamuralikrishna, Maharajapuram Santhanam, D.K.  Jayaraman, M.S. Gopalakrishnan, and the Bombay Sisters.  Among Hindustani singers, he had a particular passion for Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Bhimsen Joshi, Gangubai Hangal and Parveen Sultana.

Having lived his entire adult life in Mumbai, with much exposure to Hindustani music, he gradually began taking greater interest in it too, and would attend many seminars and music appreciation courses, peppering the speakers with questions to improve his understanding.  With that knowledge, and from hours of dedicated reading, he began writing articles on Hindustani music too; the academic in him would lead him to seek “peer review” from many artists and scholars before submitting the article for publication.  He also was invited by the Shanmukhananda Sabha in Mumbai to be a part of their programmes committee, an advisor to their music and dance school, and on the editorial team of their publication Shanmukha. A collector’s issue of Shanmukha that he conceived and executed was on the banis of Bharatanatyam, which involved meticulous follow-up with dancers around India to get them to describe the niceties of their individual banis.  He also designed a regular quiz on music and dance for the publication.  His creative, constantly curious mind  led him to curate conferences, for the sabha, notably one on the use of Western instruments in Indian music.  He also contributed articles in Tamil to Kalaimagal magazine, notably a profile of  DKP, which led the maestro to inquire around about the identity of this mysterious “Sankarabharanan” who knew so much about her. 

Seshan regularly contributed dance reviews and articles to narthaki.com and to the dance publications, Nartanam and Attendance. Leading dancers soon realised that they had a discerning (but friendly and exceptionally fluent and expressive) critic in Seshan and began regularly calling him in advance, beseeching him to attend and review their concerts in Mumbai.  And he could not “just say no”, so would always oblige, attending the recitals, taking copious notes, and within a day of the concert, turn in a sparkling review to narthaki.com, excerpts of which would soon enter the “press review” sections of these dancers’ resumes. Last year, that we in the family decided that he could not continue to brave the Mumbai traffic and senior-unfriendly sabhas to attend concerts.  He chafed at the restrictions muttering, “Stop treating me like a sick man”, and would beg to be taken to concerts, from arangetrams to major dance productions and concerts.

The art historian in him led him to discover, important impending birth and death anniversaries of composers, musicians, dancers and gurus, and he would research and write profiles of these artists, and also write to sabhas worldwide urging them to organise commemorations.

Seshan was a devoted follower of the Paramacharya of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, and instituted the Ramaswamy-Seshan-Ananthanarayanan (RASA) Awards (in memory of his ancestors) for excellence in Vedic Studies, administered by the Veda Rakshana Nidhi Trust (VRNT) of the Peetham. These annual awards have been given, since the beginning of the millennium to the best scholar, teacher and student of Vedic studies as judged by the VRNT.

Seshan was also a passionate tennis fan, and wrote commissioned previews of all Grand Slam tournaments for Mumbai newspapers, with detailed statistics of the past history of these tournaments, and his own pick for singles winners. When we were children, he would type up his prediction, seal it in an envelope before the start of the tournament, and reveal the contents after the final. I can’t remember how accurate he was, but we loved the performance spectacle of the opening of the “Grand Slam envelope.”  He was overjoyed to be able to personally witness Serena Williams and Sania Mirza/Cara Black, win the singles and doubles 2014 WTA finals in Singapore.

To the extended family, of some forty plus cousins, he was “Durai Anna”, the unquestioned head, and chief counsel and advisor on personal and professional matters. His generosity at times of distress and family weddings could be reliably counted on.  As he aged, he found it difficult to travel to Chennai, and Madurai, to meet family members individually, so he made arrangements for a high tea party for the entire family of some 150 members to gather in a rented bungalow in Luz, Chennai, for a family get-together for a celebration of his 80th birthday, and then sent CDs with photos of the event to every one of them. 

Seshan is survived by his wife, and two sons. His daughter-in-law, Dr. Siri Rama is a Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi dancer, and founder of the Kanakasabha Performing Arts Centre in Mumbai and Singapore. His grand-daughter Amara Rama, is an aspiring student of  Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi and Kathak, and Hindustani vocal music, in Singapore. 

This combination of complete (dare I say “compleat?”) professional and devoted family man is a rarity these days when professional and personal matters all co-exist and much writing is done informally, and at a fairly superficial level on the same social media platform.   If he could have read this piece, he would no doubt have whipped out his editing pen and done a few edits, of  both content and form.  If only this article could have been sent to him for a friendly “peer review” before publication!

May the music of the late greats continue to resound around him in the afterlife!


SESHAN RAMASWAMI

S.Rajam

Birthdays & Anniversaries

10.2.1919 - 29.1.2010
Rajam sir respected tradition and believed in fostering it. He was a creative artist and encouraged innovation within the traditional framework. He was a classicist and a great rasika of excellence in any form. As these are the very values Sruti stands for, it is no wonder that Rajam and Sruti got on so well.

Rajam sir was a very close friend of Sruti’s founder and Editor-in-Chief N. Pattabhi Raman. In the mid-1980s, soon after Sruti was launched, Pattabhi Raman chanced to come across Rajam’s “music letter pads” with his illustrations for Tyagaraja kriti-s. Impressed by the line drawings Pattabhi Raman immediately drove down to 41 Nadu Street in Mylapore to meet the artist. That meeting laid a strong foundation for the steadfast friendship between Rajam and Pattabhi Raman, and for Rajam’s close association and collaboration with Sruti for almost 25 years. Rajam sir was a great friend of the magazine and was a grandfather figure for all of us at Sruti, especially after the untimely demise of Pattabhi Raman.

Rajam sir took the passing away of his dear friend to heart. He was so emotionally upset that he was hospitalised soon after. And when we called on him to wish him a speedy recovery, he implored us not to be disheartened but to bravely carry forward his friend’s grandiose vision. In fact, he suggested we should have someone as knowledgeable and eminent as K.V. Ramanathan to steer us through the difficult period. https://srutimag.blogspot.in/2012/07/art-that-haunts-part-1.html

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Friday, 9 February 2018

Nirmala Ramachandran


Birthdays & Anniversaries

9.2.1936 - 23.2.2011
She was a dancer who made a great contribution not only to Indian art, but to Russian culture as well. She lived in Russia in 1984-89 with her husband S. Ramachandran, who was at the time, the chief of the Air India Office in the U.S.S.R. Nirmala Ramachandran was the first Bharatanatyam performer to demonstrate to Russian lovers of this Indian art, that there were in it not just movements of arms, feet and eyes, but movements of feelings which appeal to the most subtle chords of the soul, both of performers and spectators. Her perfor­mance made a great impression on us. Her remarkable plasticity, wonderful precision of dance movements and abhinaya impacted us immensely. With her dance, she was able to produce feelings of joy and grief, love and sadness, fear and astonishment in people’s hearts.

Nirmala Ramachandran had another great achievement to her credit. Thanks to her efforts, the first Bharatanatyam school was established in Moscow. It was not an easy affair in view of the situation in the Soviet Union, a closed country, where an art with obvious religious overtones was not welcomed at all. In March 1987, the school was inaugurated, to become in this country the first school of Indian dance with systematic training where Russians were able to get basic lessons in choreography and theory of Bharatanatyam. Alexandra Denissova (Sasha), one of Nirmala has been living in Chennai for more then ten years, was among the first students of this school.

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Thursday, 8 February 2018

Shobha Gurtu

                                                               Birthdays & Anniversaries

8.2.1925 - 27.9.2004