About three decades ago, Dr. S. Balachander was overheard telling his friend, veena vidwan G.N. Dhandapani: “The renovation of my house is going on and hence I am unable to devote more than six hours a day to veena as against my normal practice hours of 8 to 10 hours. As a result, my fingers are unable to bring out my imagination in full.” One recalled these words listening to the veena recitals of T.N. Seshagopalan and his disciple Neyveli Santhanagopalan, especially in the case of the former, at the Viswa Veena Yagna recently organised by IGNCA and The Veena Foundation, New Delhi, in association with IGRMS, Bhopal.

Madurai T.N. Seshagopalan’s veena concert was a true reflection of his vocal ideas. Shades of the brilliant vocalist were evident in Manji raga. It was an ultimate demonstration of how the raga should be handled without treading into Bhairavi.

‘Brovavamma’ (Mishra Chapu-Syama Sastri) that followed was emotional. An intuitive artist, Seshagopalan played the last line of charanam ‘Tripuresi Guruguha Janani’ of the Anandabhairavi Navavarnam of Dikshitar in first speed (normally played in second speed) thereby magnifying its beauty. Sankarabharanam and Seshagopalan have now become more or less synonymous. However the sketch was robbed of its beauty by the panchamam string that was not in tune. The mathematics in the swara segment of ‘Akshaya Linga Vibho’ sans any sensitivity marred the mood created earlier. Prapancham Ravindran (mridangam) and Tiruchi Murali (ghatam) who till then had done a good job, were at their wit’s end during the kuraippu phase caught in the swirl of mathematics.

Neyveli Santhanagopalan’s musical journey like an unbridled horse in the formative years, has now, mellowed down a lot. Sowkhiyam in music alone can lift both the vidwan and the rasika to a higher plane. Realising this, he has made it his forte. His meditative vocal style was evident in his veena concert too. He chiselled a beautiful Poornachandrika (‘Telisi Rama’-Adi-Tygaraja) after the Darbar varnam. By the time he completed Varali ragam the rasikas were almost tranquilised. Exquisitely graceful was the rendition of ‘Kaa Va Va’ (Adi-Sivan). With a mellifluous approach he showcased the multi-hued richness of Khambodi. The intervals between phrases and deft touches bore testimony to the level of gnanam attained by him. Full justice was done to the perennial charm of ‘Maragadhavallim’ (Adi-Dikshitar). With practice, Santhanagopalan can elevate his art to great heights.

Following this was Kalyani Ganesan’s concert. Being a seasoned veteran, it was cake walk, for she beautifully regulated the 60 minutes given to her. The brief Kedaragowla (varnam) and Bowli raga essays (‘Karunanidi Thaye’-Mishra Chapu-Sivan) were aesthetic. The not-so-often-heard Ramamanohari (Mathangi-Rupakam-Dikshitar) was presented with aplomb with the right mixture of gamakas and spuritams. The swaras in the last line of the charanam ‘Vamamarga Priyakhari’ were balanced with the raga in mind.

The ragam and tanam in Thodi (‘Kaddanu Variki’-Adi-Tyagaraja) brimmed with evocative phrases that brought to light its grandeur. Particular mention has to be made about the impeccable sahitya meetu (plucking the strings to be in unison with the lyrics). K.R. Ganesh (mridangam) and Madipakkam Murali (ghatam) accompanists for both the concerts combined well to provide effective support without being obtrusive.

Allam Durgaprasad (Chitraveena) created an aesthetic mood as he commenced with Saraswathi (‘Saraswathi Dayai’-Rupakam-Sivan). A distinct advantage of this instrument is its akhanda nadam almost close to the violin. Bahudari (‘Brovabarama’-Adi-Tyagaraja) was a meticulously constructed piece with the elegance of a left hander’s strokes round the circle in cricket. A deeply moving Panthuvarali ragam and tanam cast a charm on the rasikas present. ‘Ennaganu Rama’ (Rupakam-Bhadrachala Ramdas) with niraval and swarams was a pleasant diffusion of fragrance. It was height of ecstasy when he painted a colourful Bhageshree and complemented it with a tarangam of Narayana Tirtha. K.R. Ganesh (mridangam) and N. Guruprasad (ghatam) played to the mood of the artist and this only lifted the concert to a higher level.

With decades of experience behind her, R.S. Jayalakshmi presented a concert that was soul satisfying. It was pure music steeped in patantharam. ‘Parama Purusha’ (Vasanta-Adi-Swati Tirunal) with a compact swara suite was pleasing. A comprehensive Anandabhairavi (‘Mariveregathi’-Mishra Chapu -Syama Sastri) preceded an RTP in Shanmukhapriya ‘Neerajadala Nayana Hare Krishna’ (Adi). The raga was delineated in medium speed that made it look even more attractive. The phrases would have done a purist proud. Ever radiant Karukurichi Mohanram (mridangam) exhibited some master stroke play and was ably supported by his brother Karukurichi Subramaniam (ghatam).

Octogenarian V. Raghurama Ayyar, instrumental in conducting this festival ably, presented a garland of ragas in the company of septuagenarian violinist Dwaram Mangathayaru. The ease with which he handled the veena spoke volumes of his dedication and sadhakam. That he did not use the ‘meetu’ was noteworthy. Highly energetic, he went on to play ragam and tanam in Thodi, Sankarabharanam, Purvikalyani, Arabhi, Suratti and Shanmukhapriya. His forays were as sweet as honey and bore the stamp of class. Dwaram Mangathayaru, though frail, proved her mettle in all the ragas. It was a vintage presentation.

What IPL did to cricket, Viswa Veena Yagna conducted by IGNCA and The Veena Foundation, New Delhi in association with IGRMS, Bhopal, has done to veena. The crowd that thronged the hall on all the nine days was proof enough.

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