Imitation could be the best form of complimenting. When the listener gets wistful on listening to a performance, clearly he is deeply stirred. During the season there were occasions one felt this way. Nirmala Rajasekar’s veena recital was an instance. With the solid plucking they got the strings of her veena came clear and loud as she played Sahana with a rich hue in the varnam ‘Karuni’ in Adi talam. Chidambaram Balashankar gave excellent mridangam support and Balaji Chandran fine embellishment with his ghatam.
The Nattai song in Khanda Chapu was equally exuberant. Playing alternately on the bass and normal strings and sometimes together, Nirmala brought out the richness of Muthuswamy Dikshitar’s samushti-charana kriti in raga Malahari in Adi talam. The full potential of the veena was used for producing eminently pleasing aural effects to enrich the alapana in Bhairavi which was done in-depth, at places the veena even simulated the human voice.
30 minutes passed to make way for Syama Sastri’s well- known swarajati ‘Kamakshi’ which strode in at its majestic pace. ‘Brovobarama’ (Tyagaraja, Bahudari, Desadi) presented a dramatic relief from the heavy Bhairavi. Apart from rendering Papanasam Sivan’s ‘Ka Va Va’ (Varali, Adi) in a deeply devotional ethos, Nirmala used the passage in the song ‘Pazhanimalai Uraiyum Muruga’ once in chatusram at ‘arai’ and then in tisram at samam. The muthaippu devised between parts of the song by the mridangam and ghatam were tasteful. The thani avartanam was a thoroughly stimulating experience with Balashankar sending khandams flying round while Balaji Chandran took the gauntlet and reeled off volleys of his own.
The RTP was centred on the serious Sankarabharanam. One had the feeling that the thanam could have been more majestic, with a generous sprinkling of jhankara’s and playing on the bass strings, possibilities that the veena offers. However, in Nirmala’s playing melody reigned supreme sans flourishes and frills. The pallavi was set in a double-beat Khanda Jati Triputa, with the first syllable of the sahityam ‘Samaanamaa, Sabhaapate…,’ Sadasiva, sakala deivamum unakku sari-’ at ’arai-idam’ through trikalam and tisram.
The thani for this was beautifully trimmed to the pace of an ocean liner sailing in placid waters. Ragas Kiravani and Thodi were figured in the kalpanaswaras. Tuning to madhyama sruti, Nirmala played ‘Jagadodharana’ and concluded the recital with Ramanathapuram Srinivasa Iyer ’s tillana in raga Paras and Tiruppavai in Surutti.