It was a fine gesture on K.R. Saranathan’s part to have readily agreed to sing in place of Sirkazhi Jayaraman, who was unwell. It was acknowledged by the organisers (Bharat Kalachar) in the post-thani speech -- an unwritten convention at concerts these days.
K. R. Saranathan, an instinctive singer, belongs to a tradition that believes in the powerand purity of full and easy throated singing. This was more than obvious as he launched his concert with the Abhogi varnam and followed it with ‘Pancha Mathanga Mukha Ganapathi’ (Malahari, Dikshithar).
The Valaji alapana for ‘Jalandhara Supeetasthe’ of Harikesanallur Muthaiah Bhagavathar had phrases that drew inspiration from Madurai Mani Iyer’s resplendent style. The niraval and swaras were at ‘Bavaroga Nivarini’ and one was filled with the sense of adequacy in its unfolding.
A ragamalika, ‘Sankarabharana Devi’ (reminiscent of Madurai Somu) prefaced Mohanam (‘Nannu Palimpa,’ Tyagaraja), where one was able to travel backwards in time. It contained certain phrases typical of Madurai Mani Iyer, rendered devoutly. KRS was accompanied by one of his disciples.
V. V. Ravi’s violin carved out interesting touches during the raga alapanas, and his Mohanam sought to cover all possibilities that this unique scale could offer, though, at times he had slight difficulty in handling swara prastharams.
Umayalpuram Mali on the mridangam and Srirangam Kannan on the morsing joined admirably for the songs and gave a thani that had sollus of infinite variety, drawn with discretion.
A few must-mentions about one of the senior most and authentic performers of the day, include KRS’s body movements, which often caused him to move away from the mike. The result was certain nuances went unheard.
Also, one could not relish his ‘Kanakanaruchira’ (Varali) that came with the omission of the swaras in its entirety, thus deviating from the time-tested and glorious swara-sahithyam paradigm that is in vogue.
KRS has not given up the practice of providing a ragamalika finish to regular kritis and includes swaras from other ragas towards the end. On this day it was ‘Nanu Palimpa’ (Mohanam) that got this treatment -- it was “decorated” with Kaanada, Ranjani et al. Wouldn’t a simple pallavi with ragamalika swaras have been a well-reasoned alternative?
The original song was sung with a defining kaalapramanam that wasn’t rushed at the charanam (these are times when some vidwans knowingly resort to change of pace for reasons best known to them!) thus emphasising simultaneously an azhutham and mastery of laya as a concept.