Sudha Ragunathan's kutcheri proceeded on sedate lines.
Sudha Ragunathan is a popular star in the Carnatic Music arena as a torchbearer of the MLV bani. That evening Sudha was accompanied by Embar Kannan on the violin, Tiruvarur Vaidyanathan on the mridangam and R. Raman on the morsing.
With the Adi tala Pantuvarali Raga varnam of Patnam Subramania Iyer, Sudha set the concert in motion. ‘Vatapi Ganapathim,' the Hamsadhwani kriti, was next in line. Sudha's choice for kalpanaswaras at the point ‘Hamsadhwani Bhooshita' at the end of the charanam, was refreshing. The recitation of the slokam ‘Shanthakaram' in Bowli with the Annamacharya kriti ‘Sriman Narayana' in that raga in Adi talam reminded the rasikas that it was Vaikunta Ekadasi.
Sudha had not ventured into any raga alapana till this point and ‘Balakrishnan', the Dhanyasi rupaka tala composition of Papanasam Sivan was a straight approach to the kriti with the expected raga essay missing. The niraval and kalpanaswaras at ‘Gokulam Brindavanam' the charanam line compensated the absence of alapana. Bowli and Dhanyasi triggered an early morning atmosphere in the minds of rasikas. Sudha took up Hameerkalyani alapana for the Subbaraya Sastri kriti, ‘Venkatasaila Vihara,' in Adi. The kutcheri was proceeding on sedate lines, the vigour and sprightliness associated with a Sudha concert was yet to come. ‘Anupama Gunambudhi' in Atana and Khanda Chaapu talam of Tyagaraja which Sudha tried next also did not produce the desired pep. The Khanda Chapu Jati Jampa Tala composition in Bhairavi ‘Sariyevvaramma' of Syama Sastri was the sub-main piece of the concert. The Bhairavi raga alapana for this was satisfying. The niraval and kalpanaswaras at ‘Madhava Sodhari' were short.
The thani by Vaidyanathan and Raman was for an appropriate spell. GNB's ‘Mangala Varadayaki' in Kathanakuthuhalam was sung by Sudha to create the right mood for the Hindolam RTP. The tanam was accompanied on the mridangam in Trivandrum style. The Pallavi described as ‘Dasavathara Pallavi' had this string of sahitya ‘Matsya Kurma Varaha Narasimha Vamana Maam Paahi-Parasu Sri Rama Baladeva Krishna Kalki' set in Adi tala misra nadai. The trikala exercises were handled by Sudha meticulously. The plenitude of words in the Pallavi line made it impossible to do full justice to a niraval exercise. The ragamalika swaras were in a number of ragas such as Shanmukhapriya, Kedaragowla, Hamsanandhi, Saveri, Natakurinji, Sindhubhairavi and Madhyamavathi.
Embar Kannan's violin support was exuberant. ‘Om Namo Narayana' in Karnaranjani of Ambujam Krishna and ‘Venkatachalanilayam,' the Sindhu Bhairavi Purandara Dasar piece brought Sudha's concert to a close. Support from the accompanying artists was appreciable.
Sudha was impeded by some condition in her voice which did not allow the free flow of her musical manodharma even though she could negotiate the brigas as usual. The performance could not reach scintillating levels on account of this. Sudha's musical calibre no doubt stands solid and her stage dignity was impeccable and deserves special mention.
The full auditorium for Bombay Jayashri's concert was a pointer to the fact that rasikas were expecting a rich fare. Her musical mentor Lalgudi Jayaraman's traits were on display that evening.
The opening song was a GNB kriti in Hamsadhwani and Adi talam with the opening words ‘Vara Vallabha'. The kalpanaswaras for this were crisp and short. Kannadagowla and Rupaka Tala piece of Tyagaraja next was an energetic presentation. ‘Darini Telusukonti' again a Tyagaraja kriti in Adi talam has a profusion of sangatis. This progression of sangatis which brings out the aesthetics of the raga, was rendered in a fast pace with only kalpanaswaras at the pallavi. With these starters, the concert got well anchored. Dhanyasi seems to be the choicest raga at the Music Academy this year, for almost all the participating artists have included a song in this raga. Jayashri's choice was ‘Shyama Sundaranga' of Tyagaraja in Rupaka talam. A well defined and proportionate raga alapana with niraval at the charanam line ‘Ishtadaivamu' was rewarding. The kalpanaswaras were not at this niraval point but at the Pallavi, and that too was sung in the second speed.
The next item was the Khambodi raga alapana. The raga was built up well from Madhya Sthayi Shadjam upwards exploring every stage thoroughly. The raga stood up grandly like a gopuram. It was an exquisite alapana. This raga alapana preceded ‘Mahitha Pravruddha Sri Mathi,' the Lalgudi Pancharathna kriti in this Raga in tisrajati triputa talam. With the right quantum of niraval and kalpanaswaras at the anupallavi ‘Paahi Vadanaajitha', Jayashri completed the piece.
‘Karuda Shanmukha' in the 71st Melakartha Kosalam of Koteeswara Iyer in rupaka talam was the relief piece between Khambodi and the main slot. The RTP was in Kapi. The impressive raga alapana was in two stages. A more thorough exploration of the raga at the tara stayi rishabam was awaited but the artist rounded off the alapana for reasons best known to her though this did not in anyway dwarf the loftiness of the alapana. The tanam included a two raga ragamalika - Mohanakalyani and Dwijavanthi.The pallavi was in Tamil, a line from Kamba Ramayanam ‘Annalum Nokkinan Avalum Nokkinal-Kannodu Kanninai Kavvi Ondrai Ondru Undavum' set in Adi tala misra nadai. The profusion of words acted as a deterrent as there was little elbow room to negotiate the niraval. Being a product of the Lalgudi School, it was no surprise that Jayashri handled all the exercises of the Pallavi with expertise. In addition to the two ragas already included in the tanam, the kalpanaswaras contained Sekharachandrika and Priyadarshini also. Adhering to the practice of yesteryear, the thani was after the Pallavi. Both Sathishkumar and Karthick not only excelled in the thani but also in their supportive roles right through the concert. Their sruti fidelity was an outstanding feature.
Embar Kannan followed Jayashri like a shadow acting as a booster to her imagination at every stage. A slokam, ‘Brindavana Viharam,' in Kalyani in the North Indian style followed by a Narayana Tirtha tarangam in the ragam was taken up after the thani. Doubts arose as to whether the raga was Yamuna Kalyani or just a lighter version of Kalyani. If it was Yamuna Kalyani, Sudha Madhyama prayogas have a place in Yamuna Kalyani and as these were unavailable the doubts were allayed confirming that the Ragam was Kalyani.
The tillana of Lalgudi, a tricky adventure in Sindhu Bhairavi Adi Talam, was a plucky one concluding the performance.
It was heartening to find that Jayashri has almost fully surmounted some mannerist enunciations during alapanas. These showed up only once in a way and one is sure that this would also disappear soon. Evidence of maturity and more gnana bhavam in her concerts are sure indicators of her reaching higher levels in the musical firmament. These days, when a sense of proportion has almost deserted concert artists, Jayashri deserves to be specially applauded for this faculty which she showcased in her concert.