Pappu Venugopala Rao shares his views on translating ‘Rasamanjari', his plans for Music Academy and more.

He is a prolific writer, a man of letters and a reformist in the performing arts realm. Recognition is not far to seek for a person of his calibre. Today, Pappu Venugopala Rao is the secretary of the reputed Madras Music Academy in Chennai.

Matching Bhanudatta

On his visit to Hyderabad for the release of his latest book Rasamanjari, an English translation of Sanskrit poet Bhanudatta's original at Saptaparni recently, he shared some of his views on music and dance in the present day scenario and details on the book. “It was a challenge for me to bring out this book that matches with Bhanudatta's in dignity and content. I provided the transliteration, translation and my own commentary so that the reader can run his/her eye across the page without having to turn the leaf. It facilitates easy reading and understanding. There are so many intricacies embedded in the moods of nayikas and nayakas in dance parlance apart from the broad classification. These have been brought out to help artistes appreciate and accordingly imbibe in their own performances,” he stated.

He is not just a revivalist but also a reformist. The Music Academy has undergone certain sweeping changes — the archives have been digitised (touch screen) and the publication division that faced closure is now back on rails. The music institution on the premises has now been upgraded into an advanced school of Carnatic music with a certified three-year diploma course awarded by the academy. “We usually take music aspirants from the manodharma level and not at the fundamentals stage. We have the best teachers/performers coming to teach at the academy music school. We are planning a full-fledged research centre at the Music Academy with the help of our experts committee. Our archives will help produce research scholars,” he shared.

He envisages the expansion of Music Academy from within “the confines of Mylapore and Madras to a universal institution.”

He has many more plans up his sleeve. “My concept is that this treasure we have in Telugu and Sanskrit has to be transliterated so that they become accessible to all others irrespective of language barriers.” To this extent, he's planning a book on research methodology for music and dance as well as working on 50 non-popular ‘javali' with notation slated to be released in November this year as a CD. Most javali are in colloquial Telugu and for a performer it is mandatory to know the meaning in order to get the idiom right since these songs are ‘abhinaya'-oriented. Venugopala Rao was also responsible in bringing an error-free, English version of Sangeetha Sampradaya Pradarshini and plans to get the remaining volumes in English too very soon. Prior to Rasamanjari, his Flowers at his feet (four CDs on Annamacharya compositions) and Signs of Sri Chakra on Dikshitar's Kamalamba navavarna kritis rendered by Sriram Parasuram and Anuradha Sriram.

His early association with Vempati Chinna Satyam way back in 1983 brought Kuchipudi into the limelight in Chennai. It gave this genre an academic face and ever since, the two worked on dance in their own unique way. Venugopala Rao's presence at the Music Academy has given a boost to our own vidwans to perform and showcase talent at the prestigious Marghazhi festival (music season) in the prime slots which makes our state proud.