Clarity of swaras was evident in Ranjith Varier's voice. Despite unhelpful vocals, Mambalam Sisters acquitted themselves well.
Nearly two-thirds of the 90-minute concert of Ranjith Varier was devoted to two ragas - Pantuvarali and Thodi. Support from H.M. Smitha on the violin and Umayalpuram V. Kalyanaraman on the mridangam was laudable. Twenty minutes from the commencement of the programme, Pantuvarali was depicted in its fullest complexion, in a leisurely style of development, with a strong and steady voice, by the singer, albeit with a nasal twang. Through distinct and flawless notes and deep and firm bowing of a resonant violin, infusing it with a generous supply of brigas, Smitha's playing displayed commendable mobility over wide sweeps on the fingerboard, as she maintained both melody and power.
Bhadrachala Ramadasa's ‘Enna Ganu Ramabhajana' lent pep to the concert. The delivery was effortless and at the same time, rich in lakshana and sahitya suddham. Venkataraman lent appropriate feeling with his sedate accompanying, particularly in the charanam lines ‘Rama Rama Ramaenusu.' With a brief kalpanaswara exchange, Ranjith concluded this part.
‘Sri Maatrbhootam' of Muthuswamy Dikshitar in Kannada was a perfect buffer between the agile ‘Ennaganu' and the leisurely portrayal of Thodi that followed. There was dedicated exploration of the raga, starting from sancharas in the characteristic gandhara, hovering around the manthara sthayi region for some time and climbing up to the shadja gracefully without hurry or ceremony. The phrasing underscored how the singer himself relished the taste of the raga. He sustained the higher madhyama steadily and took the dhaivata too in the customary sweep through a sangati, without letting up on sweetness. Altogether an exceedingly succulent fare that deserved the thundering applause that it drew.
Smitha's continued in the same leisurely style with solid rolling brigas, rounded off full-bowed notes and flexible phrases and full control, that spiced Thodi. Following a gamaka style at times, she was comfortable at vakra sancharas. The effect of such aesthetic conception and clean rendition of the raga was enriched by the glory of Tyagaraja's soulful composition, ‘Chesinadella Marachitiyo' (‘Have you forgotten all that you did for others?') to a single-beat Adi talam at a slow pace. The various sangatis sung around ‘Chesina' stressed the anguish of the poet. Kalpanaswaras at the anupallavi ‘Aasa Konnatti' were tastefully woven and the tempo was stoked to a rich fire, with the voice and violin alternately forming different strings of notes to land at the madhyama, completing the effort with a grand flourish. Venkataraman's thani was a demonstration of not only crisp sollu korvais but also melody through the notes the mridangam generated - a full-blooded thani indeed, at the end of a sumptuous musical treat!
The initial reaction to the sorry state of the voice of one of the Mambalam Sisters was shock. From the very first note of the Hamsadhwani piece, ‘Jaya Ganapate,' it was obvious that the kutcheri would probably have to cruise along on a single engine. Audience etiquette was evidenced by the applause that followed this.
Anandabhairavi was a struggle, and quite jarring on the ear at points, and Jyotsna Srikanth playing on the violin could do little to lift it. Tyagaraja's ‘Paraloka Bhayamu' in Mandari, rendered at a brisk pace, helped spruce up the proceedings a little. Vijayalakshmi's interpretation of Sankarabharanam was serious and well-sustained in power and pitch at long karuvais and through sancharas.
Jyotsna, quite comfortable at the higher notes, with commendable control over various gamakas, contributed several original formations in her version, and steered the alapana phase to a level suited for Tyagaraja's ‘Enduku Peddalavale' in double-beat Adi talam. By dint of their experience and inherent capability, the sisters devised a working pattern to deliver a complete and wholesome package in Sankarabharanam, with niraval at ‘Vedasastra Tattvarthamulu Delisi' followed by kalpanaswaras.
Shertalai R Ananthakrishnan presented appropriate punctuations to emphasise the laya all through. The foursome managed to pack in a good deal of punch in this half-hour creation, followed by an over-ten-minute thani.
The tempo prepared the ground for the RTP in Simhendramadhyamam The ragam and tanam were developed through 12 minutes and seven minutes methodically. Vijayalakshmi announced the details of the pallavi to the audience - a sensible move - which was set in a Tisrajati roopaka taalam in Sankeerna gati, around the words ‘Nerajaakshi Kamaakshi Nikhilaloka Sakshi' taking off at one and a half, composed by their sister Dr. Hemalatha.
Ragas Reetigowlai, Amrithavarshini and Hindolam also figured. At the end, one had a satisfied feeling and appreciated the singers for putting up a brave front and ending up with a creditable concert.