Sudha Ragunathan vested the concert with certain grandeur.
Sudha Raghunathan continues her hold on rasikas and occupies her “pride of place” in the Carnatic music firmament. And that is because she is endowed with that distinct ability to impart impressive grandeur wherever required, in her concerts. She is gifted with an acute sense of music flux and is able to work out balmy transitions that come in the form of switches from the high to the low tone. This writer caught up with her as she was rendering ‘Vinaradanamanavi’ (Devagandhari) - a special pleading from the bard Tyagaraja to Rama.
Sudha’s Saveri alapana (Dikshitar, ‘Sri Rajagopala’) had all of those sombre and magnificent variations and some infinite occasions where she dwelt with glee on the upper octaves. ‘Narayana Ninna,’ an MLV favourite (Suddha Dhanyasi, Purandara Dasa) came as a timely insertion after the weighty Saveri. Voice modulation techniques were effectively used in this song that went down well with the audience. Khambodi (O! Rangasayee! Tyagaraja) is a raga that makes provisions for sancharas and prayogas in all three octaves. Sudha exploited it to the maximum; her pet liking, of course, was the mel kalam. This is not to take anything away from her valiant attempts at her mandhara sthayi “stays.” Her fixing of sangatis around the “dha” was a matter of delight; diligence too. Allegiance to chaste grammatical usage of Kakali Nishadham was made evident by the fact that this was put to use only to give a well contoured finale to the alapana. The niraval was at the customary ‘Bhooloka Vaikuntam’ that had an associated nidhanam with it.
The end of thani avarthanam - the last beat – saw the beginning of ‘Guruvayurappane Appan’ with a moment’s gap, in Ritigowla. Stamina and energy were of a high order but slight breathlessness could be detected here and there. And in the sangathis that hover around the top shadjamam and beyond it her tone showed the tendency to get hard and aggressive. I am not trying to be unrealistic. But the suggestion is, champion that she is, she ought to engage in some mike-less performances to know the impact of all this.
Violinist Gopinath fully recovered from some squeaky spots of bother and presented izhaippu sangatis both for the Khambodi and Saveri raga alapanas. Answers for the swara sequences were given in a matching manner, fittingly.
Mannargudi Eswaran on the mridangam teamed well with E.M. Subramaniam (ghatam) and their accompanying orientation for niravals reflected the long years of service they had put in as laya vidwans. This experience was again evident when they gave their support for the songs, which depended on the depth of the particular kriti. The variations they offered were incredible.