O.S. Arun stormed his way into the hearts of his audience as he presented bhajan gilded with Hindustani touch.
“Let us enter the New Year without any inhibitions,” said O.S. Arun to exhort his audience to sing – rather chant – along with him and his rasikas gladly obeyed. Presently, ‘Narayana, Narayana' rang out, heads swayed and a couple of hundred pairs of hands clapped to the beat of the mridangam player J. Vaidyanathan. While the frenzied audience chanted in unison, the sorcerer who held them spell-bound sang Narayana in 50 different ways—a fitting adieu to 2011.
No person who was present in that Bhajan Sandhya (‘Bhajan evening') of O.S. Arun at the sabha would remember 2011 more than this for that evening. It started with a lovely Hamsadhwani piece in praise of Lord Ganesha. Loud and boisterous, Arun stormed his way into the hearts of his audience as he presented bhajans gilded with Hindustani touch, taking them through ragas such as Mohana Kalyani, Hamir Kalyani, Madhuvanti, Karnaranjani and Mohanam. Wedged somewhere between them was a Nadanamakriya, but it was a bhajan alright, in the devotion-soaked words of Bhadrachala Ramadas (‘Garuda Gamana Ra Ra').
The Hamir Kalyani piece was a bunch of verses from Krishna Karunamrutam on Krishna as a lad that ended with the words ‘Balam Mukundam Manasa Smarami.' It was preceded by a sloka in the raga and embellished by some brilliant chip-in by violinist Mullaivasal Chandramouli. Perhaps because it was a bhajan and the accent was therefore on the bhava, Arun's pronunciation of the key words was expressive - for instance, when he sang the words ‘Visaala Netram,' the vowel ‘aa' went on for what seemed to be forever. The effect was stupefying. The piece ended in a chant of ‘Govinda, Govinda' and the Lord's name was probably chanted around 500 times.
It was in the Madhuvanti piece that followed ‘Sesha Saila Vaasa Narayana' and a Sai Bhajan that Arun pulled everybody into business. The opening lines began in the depths—the ‘pa' of the lower octave, taking the notes ‘pa-ni-sa-ga,' dripping with bhakti, and it was only fitting that the audience deliriously joined Arun in chanting Narayana.
The next offering, Nadanamakriya, was a quick one and just then Arun received a request-note—and Karnaranjini made its appearance and the words ‘Yamunai Nadiye, Kannanai Kandayo,' by Appa Rao, added a Tamizh flavour to the fare. But the highlight of the evening was the Mohanam piece, ‘Ha Raghava,' an abhang. It must rank among the finest Mohanam ever sung and the Sanskrit verse segued into ‘Vittala, Vittala,' where again the audience joined, clapping to the beat.