Saketharaman included just one Tyagaraja song in his line-up, much against the current trend. T.V. Ramprasadh rendered many vilamba kala kritis. And Bombay Sriram portrayed a variety of ragas.
Saketharaman’s concert could be described as a mixed bag. The talented youngster exceeded expectations in some segments, but fell short in some other defining moments. Ideas and execution were not always well aligned.
Bringing his effervescent style into play, Saketharaman went for a high gear start with the kedaragowla varnam followed by ‘Sundaratharadeham’ (Pantuvarali, Tyagaraja) that was packed with niraval and swaram, in one brisk sweep. This was the only song composed by Tyagaraja that was featured in this concert – that should raise some eyebrows on current trends! Saketharaman’s Brindavanasaranga ragam was creative but his kriti (‘Rangapuravihara’), effort (thunderous, mechanical) failed to live up to the composer’s subtle emotions. The high speed filler, ‘Paridanamichite’ (Bilahari, Patnam Subramania Iyer) could have been rendered with more swarasthana clarity in the sangatis.
Saketharaman’s Thodi raga alapana had two distinct halves – the first one was more experimental and one felt the sangatis were still germinating on stage and therefore sounded unfinished, but he brought home the ragam with superb forays post the ‘da’ spot, filled with bhavam. The grahabedam crossover to Kurinji/Navroj sounded tentative (Manjunath’s mohanam switch from Thodi was more assured). ‘Thamatham Aen Swami’ (Papanasam Sivan), popularised by GNB, was a surprise choice and Saketharaman showed his calibre with a powerful rendition of the kriti, buttered with good enunciation of the words and laya overtones in the swara chain (a la alathur brothers). It also gave an opportunity to listen to an exciting contest from the pair of the intelligent Mysore Manjunath (violin) and the mridangam maestro Umayalpuram Sivaraman who played alternately in the two halves of each avarthanam – impromptu. ‘Enna Thavam Seidhanai’ (Kapi), ‘Smara Sundaranguni’ (Paras), Dhanasri tillana and ‘Niraimathi Mukham’ (Tiruppugazh, in Ranjani, for a change) were vibrant tail pieces that helped to end the concert on a bright note. Master percussionists Sivaraman and ghatam Karthick embellished the whole concert capped of course, with a fascinating thani that had both sensitivity and power quotients in equal measure. The seasoned Mysore Manjunath put his stamp in all the manodharma phases.
Bombay Sriram displays a sturdy voice with good punch in the upper octaves and made a sincere effort to portray a variety of ragas such as Natakapriya, Dharmavati and Saveri. However his exuberance needs to be matched with better clarity, attention to details in kriti rendition, tempo variations and mellowed voice production when necessary.
‘Sami Ninne,’ (Sri ragam) varnam and ‘Ninne Bhajana’ (Nattai, Tyagaraja) were pacy renditions which led to manodharma action in the form of Natakhapriya ragam that was competently rendered, with spotlight on all trademark phrases. ‘Geetavadya’ of Thanjavur Sankara Iyer sailed uneventfully but was suffixed with some bright swarams in ‘Sarasakshi.’
Sriram sang an elaborate Dharmavati ragam, without being able to show his grasp of the core of the ragam. ‘Parandamavathy Yuvathy’ (Dikshitar) was a competent effort. ‘Nannu Vidachi’ (Ritigowla, Tyagaraja) started well but meandered in the charanam, averaging the overall song effect. Saveri ragam was the main highlight of the concert. While Sriram’s understanding of the ragam and its special character were visible in many places, the alapana could have been structured better, rather than as a string of phrases. In the rendition of ‘Ramabhana’ Sriram’s potential could be evidenced in both the kriti and the niraval at ‘Bhama Kasabadu,’ though brief. The kalpanaswara segment was of a good standard. Violinist Bhadrinath was at his best while the mridangam player Dr. Ram Sriram played with anticipation, deft strokes and a keen sense of laya. Bombay Sriram is talented and needs some more handholding from his guru to iron out the rough edges.
T.V. Ramprasadh has a clear voice, timbre, volume and a good range to maximise the concert effect. However, his concert lacked clarity. It was not clear why Ramprasad chose so many vilamba kala kritis, nor was his manodharma or bhavam strongly evident except in the Kalyani raga alapana.
‘Sri Lakshmi Varaham’ (Abhogi, Dikshitar) accounted for a promising start even though one felt that barrage of swaras was far too early. ‘Sarvam Vishnu Mayam Sri Satyanarayanam’ in Subhapantuvarali (Dikshitar) was chosen to commemorate the Vaikunta Ekadasi day. It was competently rendered. Ramprasad’s Bhairavi ragam was of a routine standard with T.K.V. Ramanujacharyalu on the violin, who played a more inspired version. ‘Lalithe’ of Tyagaraja is a beautiful kriti with a unique structure and slew of sangatis. Ramprasad could have chosen a slightly faster tempo or interspersed the song with equivalent sangatis in the niraval at ‘Lalithe’ to lend vibrancy.
The metronomic tempo was in need of a shift at this stage. The next kriti, ‘Kanda’ (Shamalangi, Koteeswara Iyer) was filled with emotion but did not provide the hustle. After a quick ‘Ninnanodi’ (Thodi, Purandaradasa), Ramprasad launched into an impressive raga alapana of Kalyani. The starting phrases in the lower half of the octave were haunting. Creativity in the tail segment of the raga could have been more discernible as the ascenders and descenders were bland. The violinist responded well with a truly time-honoured style of the ragam, with pleasing varjya phrases over ‘pa’ and ‘sa.’ ‘Kamalambam Bhajare’ is normally sung in a vilamba kala and Ramprasad therefore must have chosen it to suit his style. After a good kriti rendition, the niraval at ‘Nithya Kalyanim Kathyayanim’ had good essays in the first speed. Swarams in kalyani, though briskly constructed, were not outstanding.
Ramanujacharyalu supported the concert with good tone and bhavam filled playing, but the mridangam player Kolkata Aravind played as if he was playing a drum that had been keyed on, not matching with the contours of the songs. Ghatam Suresh had a quiet evening, except for playing an excellent thani at the end.