The recent recital of Malladi Brothers was marked by vibrancy. Haripriya’s Devagandhari was an aural treat and Lalita’s Vachasapti was more decorative than dainty.
The characteristic style of Malladi Brothers is the way they integrate their sound musical training to a deliberately chosen strident idiom misshaping the beauteous forms of ragas and kirtanas. Their main objective seems to be to express aesthetic ar ticulation more by over-emphatic vocal power than by the peace of sangita. Their creative urge keeps step with today’s kutcheri pattern of relentless pressure which was prominently presented in their recital for Sri Krishna Gana Sabha.
Malladi Brothers marked their technique with vibrancy — their perception contributing depth to ragas and songs. With tonal refinement and attention to the mellow aspects of sangita, they should be able to reach great heights. Good Carnatic music represents cultural sensitivity. Pleasing the audience through punch and power gives a false reality to the true dimensions of Carnatic music’s serenity.This aspect was particularly distinct in the raga alapana of Devagandhari — a raga that does not lend its bhakti to speedy passages. Asaivus, more than brigas, reveal its beauty, the understanding of which was well displayed by violinist S. Varadarajan. The basis of this play was luminous, the beauty of Devagandhari shining from every rakti-laden phrase. Even in his support to the Malladi Brothers in the other items Varadarajan’s sangita had all the ingredients of serene classicism. He gave a lasting glimpse to the reverential Devagandhari.
Another alapana effort was Purvikalyani. There was every indication of the musician’s involvement in measuring the length and breadth of the ragas. Its reach was phrase-by-phrase outlined with wide and spectacular sweeps. A vein of musical fervour permeated every sanchara. The shared experience between the brothers was obvious in the build-up of the performance on such lines.
Here too, violinist Varadarajan’s simple straightforward, delicate presentation of Purvikalyani occasionally exhibiting fingering virtuosity was familiar, but the imagery he aroused was stupendous. Elegance apart, the felicity of the flow was pleasing. The kirtana was ‘Kasi Visalakshi.’ The eloquent simplicity of Dikshitar’s diction was well preserved in their interpretation. They imparted crispness and force to the song and maintained the bhakti bhava.
The same cannot be said of the two Tyagaraja items, ‘Maa Janaki’ (Khambodi without an alapana) and ‘Ika Kaavalasina Demi’ (Bolahamsa). The almost forgotten Ananda Bhairavi kirtana ‘Ni Mati Sallaga’ of Mathrubhuthamayya with its arresting chittaswaram provided a welcome start to the recital. Compactly sound and deceptively simple, the kirtana carried classical dignity.
M.L.N. Raju was the mridangist with S.Karthick on the ghatam. Their anticipatory support was noteworthy with the former’s sound pattern soothing and the latter’s fingering manipulations fertile.
It was a testament of sensitivity the way Haripriya (Hyderabad Sisters) opened up the rakti-world of Devagandhari in the recital at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha. It provided real pleasure by the gentle oscillations she resorted to in the development of the raga. She made sure that each sanchara had a purpose set to accomplish the aim kept in view. There was fullness of gana-naya and tonal control in negotiating the phrases indicating her discernment of the graces of Devagandhari.
The choice of the Dikshitar kirtana, ‘Kshitija Ramanam,’ was equally well-meant. The poised structure, the sahitya gowravam carrying aesthetic grace made the interpretation sparkling. The style of presentation of the kirtana was free from any pretence of erudition. When such was the delicacy of the raga and kirtana, was there a necessity to tag on swaras that peeped into the chaya of an allied raga?
The approach to raga alapana differed between the Sisters. Not endowed with a free-wheeling voice, the strained expression of Lalita in her elaboration of Vachaspati (‘Ennadu Nee Kripa Galguna’ — Patnam Subramania Iyer) was more decorative than dainty. The Progress was not smooth in the sancharas and she took great pains to make the image of Vachaspati respectable.
‘Sudha Maadurya Bhashini’ (Sinduramakriya) ‘Devi Brova Samayamidhe’ (Chintamani) and ‘Neevada Ne Gana’ (Saranga) were the other items sung giving importance to attractive dressing-up to make them interpretatively impressive.
Padma Shankar was for the most part a passive accompanist except when she played some lively sancharas in Vachaspati. Melakkaveri Balaji (mridangam) and Gopalakrishnan (ganjira) were equally modest in their support.