A legend in her own times, Bharat Ratna M.S.(Madurai Shanmukhavadivu) Subbulakshmi symbolised the sublimilty of the Indian music -Carnatic tradition in particular. Her mellifluous voice, embellished with devotional element, earned her admirers all over the world. ‘Bhakti is all’ is how she described her music. Though she is not present physically now, her songs continue to spellbind music lovers. Her immense contribution for the enrichment of music is beyond easy comprehension and assessment.
The book under review is a sincere endeavour to portray the multifaceted musical faculty and unique personality of M.Subbulakshmi (M.S.). It is in the form of compilation of articles by 91 knowledgeable writers and persons drawn from different walks of life and also numerous box – items incorporating the encomium by luminaries, accolades of the Press, short anecdotes and the like. Gathering the material is indeed a difficult task, because the period of the collected components ranges from 1966 to 2012. Equal pains are taken to secure and insert a large number of attractive photographs of M.S. The editor of the book, Lakuma Budeswara Rao, President, M.S.Subbulakshmi Foundation indicates that the publication is a tribute to the sacred memory of the ‘Queen of the Music.’
In view of the structure and composition of the book, it is feasible only to briefly refer to the appraisals of items culled at random. The book rightly commences with a short biographical sketch of M.S by S.Rammohan Rao. Her birth in 1916 in Madurai into a family dedicated to music, her (Kunja-pet name of M.S.in childhood) successive training under her mother, Srinivasa Iyengar and pandit Narayana Rao Vyas, her marriage with Sadasivam and her music performances are included in it . Indraganti Janakibala extols the outstanding features of M.S. voice attuned to any Raga and Pitch. Vasanthi narrates how the then President of India K.R.Narayanan personally contacted M.S. to convey the conferment of Bharat Ratna honour. ‘Subbulakshmi is a great expert in Manodharma Process,’ observes M. Ramalinga Sastry. M.S. music recital in UNO is one the topics dealt with by Somasunder. N. Parthasaradhi tells about the unparalleled philanthropy of M.S.and also her films. In an article Lakshmi Sameeraja describes M.S. as an ideal house wife. Sadasivam’s role in the success of M.S. is narrated by C.B.Mohan Rao. In many of the articles, praises showered on M.S. by Gandhi, Nehru, Rajaji, Sarojini Naidu, Abul Kalam and several other leaders are quoted giving the context. Twentyone writers give vent to their experiences on listening to M.S.performances .
The contents are divided into twelve heads, couched in typical rhetoric style. Readers have to peruse through pages to find put the names of contributors. This inconvenience could have been avoided with proper setting of the contents. Nonetheless, the book is certain to attract the attention of M.S.admirers.