It was a tale from the purana but Subbu Arumugam made it current.

As part of Bhakti Sangeet Utsav, jointly organised by Carnatica and Sree Parthasarathy Swamy sabha, Villupattu maestro Subbu Arumugam presented a thoroughly enjoyable fare on the theme ‘Muthamizh Deivam Murugan.’ The lively music interspersed narration examined the close association between Lord Muruga and Tamil.

With a brief introduction on the significant aspects of the art which made it singular and unique, Subbu Arumugam launched the evening’s recital with Mahakavi Bharatiar’s ‘Vazhga Nirantaram’ in Hamsadhwani. On the importance of “Thandanathom” a phrase repeatedly used in Villupattu, he said that, it represented Thannaithandom, or offering oneself to the art.

The central piece of the recital was ‘Valli Kalyanam,’ which was dealt with at three levels. At one level, it interlinked Siva and Vishnu, at another it saw the unison of Muruga, paramatma and Valli, jivatma. But at a subtle level, it also meant the disintegration of caste differences.

The evening also saw the display of contrasting music, with the simple villupattu tunes and kavadichindu juxtaposed with the elaborately detailed raga phrases and virutham fom Kalaimagan, Subbu Arumugam’s grandson. His rendition of the virutham ‘Kayadakanagathae’ (Kharaharapriya and Shanmukhapriya) followed by a pacy recital of ‘Meyadha man’ deserves mention.

A catchy composition, ‘Yaen Palli kondeer Aiyya Namasivaya’ (Mohanam, SubbuArumugam) on the deity of Suruttapalli, was also presented. Rendered on the lines of Arunachalakavi’s ‘Aen palli kondeeraiyya Sreeranganatha,’ speculates the reasons for the deity’s tiredness resulting in his reclined posture.

The musically vibrant performance was both educative and entertaining with topical references to current issues putting mythology and purana in the right perspective. Interesting points

Subramanya Bharati’s first composition was a casual retort to a villupattu vidwan’s demand for dakshina/fee from the audience, overlooking his moral duty to instil patriotic sentiments in the listener.

Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati referred to villupattu as the art of national integration.

The veteran concluded the show with his popular number, ‘Sangeetham pol vazhkai amayanum,’ a spoof on the facial expressions of some musicians during raga alapana and the exit of the members of the audience during thani avarthanam.

Subbu Arumugham was accompanied by his daughter Bharathi Thirumagan (vocal), son S. Gandhi (on udukkai) and grandson Kalaimagan (vocal support). It was heart warming to see a family dedicated to the preservation of a unique art form.