Taking off with a flighty varnam in Nayaki and khandajati triputa talam, followed by Tyagaraja's composition in Gundakriya (‘Indanuchu Inbatarama’), K. Gayathri's concert cruised like a jet aircraft through the alapana in Dhanyasi within nine minutes from start, powered by a voice engine tuned to perhaps 6 kattai, as S.P. Anantapadmanabhan grappled with the high tension strings of his violin, Tyagaraja's 'Shyama Sunderaanga’ in Rupaka talam came in for a three-minute treatment.
Then it was the turn of Syama Sastri's 'O Jagadamba' in Anandabhairavi, which was dismissed after five minutes, before brushing away Swati Tirunal's 'Parama Purusham' in Lalita Panchamam. Sankarabharanam promised a profundity, but within a couple of minutes, it too took flight with hardly a few excursions at the manthara sthayi; phrases demanded flexibility of voice, precision in tonal value and dedicated practice - and Gayathri displayed all these. Fifteen minutes of Muthuswamy Dikshitar's 'Akshayalinga Vibho' in misra chapu through niraval and swaras at ‘Badarivanamoola’ was a caricature of a fine deeply inspired composition.
B Sivaraman, who till then could not do much besides race to keep pace, was given four minutes to present his creative skill in the thani, which he did well. The brisk item, 'Paraamukham Enamamma' in Kanada, a composition of GNB, was welcome. One does not often get to listen to the stirring and challenging keertanams of this maestro and wonders why artists do not take them more seriously.
Poorvikalyani alapana, in two instalments, was well-timed for the thanam and pallavi, which followed. A sankeerna nadai can be demanding on the singer, but more on the average listener. Most of the artist's attention was taken up by the need to stick to arithmetic. Creativity in nuances is an unfortunate casualty. The pallavi did not appear to live up to the meaning of the sahityam 'Nanda Nandana, Mandahaasa Vadana, Brndaavana Aananda, Pahi'.
Gayathri was in strict control of the fingers of the left hand, while the right just marked the drutams and anudrutams. The academically curious observer sought desperately for the count - which was kept a closely guarded secret. The audience has witnessed great masters such as Alathur Brothers, who would raise their hand and mark the matras and beats for two or three aavartanams to enable even those seated in the last rows to get the talam. The idea was to make it a collective enjoyment and not isolate the rasika from the bhagavata, With today's attitudes, such exercises could well be reserved for lec-dems and kept away from platforms meant for enjoyment of the art!
Ragas such as Varamu, Kannada and Rasikapriya flitted in the kalpanaswara, leading to the tillana and a Tamil javali in Paras. For all that, there was no dearth of lusty applause all round.
The concert was concluded with Paramacharya's ‘Maitreem Bhajata,’ which made history in the United Nations with M.S.Subbulakshmi giving life to it, but did not make a lasting impression, thanks to the total absence of soul.