M.S. Subbulakshmi was remembered on the 97th birthday, and daughter Radha Viswanathan was felicitated

When it comes to sermons on M.S. Subbulakshmi, speakers invariably forget time limits and become emotional. Those who have attended the 97th Birthday Celebrations of Bharat Ratna M.S. Subbulakshmi and felicitation to Radha Viswanathan for her 75th year of her musical journey, would have definitely felt this.

The programme, organised by Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, started with an invocation song in Bengali by M.S. Subbulakshmi’s great granddaughter Saundarya (He Nothan). The verses by Rabindranath Tagore were popularised by MS.

Nalli Kuppuswami Chetti welcomed the gathering. The citation given to Radha Viswanathan read by ‘Cleveland’ V.V. Sundaram, lauded her significant musical journey with the legendary MS that moved millions of hearts.

Mridangam vidwan T.K. Murthy recalled his long association with MS Amma and Radha. V. Ramnarayan, (Editor, Sruthi) touched upon his personal rapport with the families of MS and Radha and also read out some poignant passages from the book written by Gowri Ramnarayan. He emphasised that it was Radha’s vivacity which made her cross many of the vicissitudes in her life.

In his presidential address the Governor of Andhra Pradesh ESL Narasimhan impressed the audience with quotes from Tyagaraja, Sanskrit slokas and Tamil verses and referred MS and Radha as ‘two bodies, one voice’ (Iru udal, oru kural) and traced their exceptional voyage and spoke of how they conquered music lovers the world over with not just their music buta also by their benevolence. Radha’s foray in Bharatanatyam was also mentioned. Sundaram reminisced how Radha made a miraculous re-entry into the concert platform after her illness in 1983.

After all the extended eulogies and encomiums, the vocal recital of Aishwarya, the granddaughter of Radha Viswanathan and great granddaughter of MS, started 45 minutes behind schedule. Aishwarya chose songs closely associated with MS and Radha. She opened with the slokam ‘Karacharana Kritamva’ in Bowli followed by ‘Sambho Mahadeva.’ A précis on Saveri appended by ‘Durusuga’ with niraval and swaras on ‘Narayani Syama Krishna’ followed. ‘Ka Va Va’ in Varali and an elaborate Kalyani with ‘Etavunara’ were the other items.

Aishwarya has a clear dulcet voice which could stretch to higher pitches without strain. But, she needs to learn how to marshal the phrases and swaras to bolster the raga essays and swara segments. It is good for the budding artist to carve out her one’s own style. But at the same time, the most celebrated trademark of MS and Radha -- sruti aligned motifs in raga alapanas -- were given a miss, which was conspicuous. The overall tempo of the concert also dithered and left something to be desired.

V.V. Ravi (violin), T.K. Murthy, A.M. Hari Narayanan (mridangam) and V. Anirudh Athreya (ganjira) were the supporting artists.