Well-known musicians of the city and old-timers who were All-India Radio listeners, made their way to hear the melody queen of yesteryear, T.T. Sita, even if it was not a full length katcheri. The octogenarian proved beyond a point that age does not dent one’s musical prowess, especially when you have nearly five decades of continuous concert experience behind you. Nicknamed in her heyday by music lovers and critics as the ‘MS of Andhra’, Sita lived up to the expectations of the new generation of musicians and her old fans with her inimitable alapana in Khambhoji for which she had once upon a time drawn crowds. The icing on the cake was the presence of friend and ‘guru putri’ Chittoor Revathy Ratnaswamy also sharing the dais. These two thespians — childhood friends and pupils of Guru Chittoor Subramanyam Pillai — lent support to each other with childlike enthusiasm that it was pleasure to see them so wrapt in their own music.
Sita took up a light alapana of Veghavahini and launched into Dikshitar’s Gajananayutham Ganeshwaram… in her inimitable sweetness. The mitram where Revathy Ratnaswamy chipped in brought the invocatory kriti to a rhythmic closure. The Thyagaraja kriti Paraloka bhayamu leka bhava pasha baddhu layyaru… began in Mandaari (janya raga of 50th Melakarta Namanaarayani) with its gamaka-laden sangathis. One could not but notice the perfect balance and blend that yesteryear musicians like Sita, a la MS Subbulakhmi had of a touch of technicalities with a lot more of bhava (emotive element) whether it be the swara or sahitya. It is this beautiful aspect that differentiates them from the present day vocalists or those astute older generation musicians who lay great stress on classicality at the cost of emotionality which for most is considered as denting the grammar of Carnatic music! Never did we hear a Mandaari being presented with such delicacy and grace.
Revathy Ratnaswamy with her pupils to support her, took over and treated us to an hour-long katcheri with choicest kritis like Kanna tandri naa pai… (Thyagaraja) in Devamanohari Raanidhi raadhu, surasurula kaina in Manirangu, Natajana paripalaka..’ in Simhendramadhyam, where the sangathis flowed in dignified beauty in keeping with the resplendent raga, the Ranjani mala and a few more tilting pieces. Shyama Sastri’s exquisite kriti in Shri ragam, Karuna joodu ninnu nammina vaadu kada was rendered with a dulcet alapana and exposition of the very emotive lyric. The lift and pause to the line, Pa-ra-ke-la namma ending in Brihannayaki encircled the kriti lending it a depth. The Ranjani mala with swara and sahitya interlacing is in itself a very attractive piece and Revathy Ratnaswamy did full justice to it with her classical handling.
She gave us a song in every language beginning with the lilting Tamil lyric, Chinna, china paadam vaithu kanna nee vaa.. where we could visualise little Krishna’s dancing feet as He does His narthanam. A Purandharadasa keertana, and a viruttam Shivam, Shivakaram leading to the very popular Mahadeva Shiva Shambo in the raga by her name, her guru-father’s Madhuranagarilo…, a piece in Hindi, she regaled her audience with her strong-throated classicalism. N.Ch. Ananthakrishna on the violin and Burra Sriram on the mridangam were fitting accompanists. The recital was part of the felicitation ceremony to the veteran artistes by Trividya Peetam at Ravindra Bharathi.