Whether a novel RTP or an abhang, Aruna Sairam was in her element. B.V. Balasai was sonorous for the most part.
The crowded foyer and the long winding queues outside the auditorium spoke of the popularity of Aruna Sairam. A strongly etched Khambodi and the classic ‘Koniyadina Napai' by Veenai Kuppaier kept the exciting concert aloft. The niraval at ‘Markandeyuni' and the swara adjunct was true to Aruna's way of singing striking swaras.
When one kept wondering about what had happened to the magnificent chittaiswaram that came after the anupallavi, she threw a surprise by integrating it at the tail-end of the kalpanaswaras.
Aruna is a a liberated singer; she wants to be different; so her statements are bold, loud and clear, both literally and figuratively. She makes no bones about wooing the audience with her vociferous style whether it is raga, kriti rendition, niraval or swara. Aruna's voice may not be syrupy sweet; so what? She warmed the cockles of her rasikas' hearts with her vitalising delivery. After the opening Aboghi varnam and a slow Devagandhari (‘Seetha Vara'), she drafted a raga essay with phrases for Amritavarshini. ‘Sudhamayee' was fast and buoyant with strident swaras where H.N. Bhaskar on the violin matched her well in his replies.
The Ragam Tanam Pallavi in Kharaharapriya moved on traditional lines --- a two-part alapana, a precise tanam and the pallavi ‘Amba Sambavi Kathyayani Karaharapriye' set in kanda jathi triputa talam.
Sairam dressed it up the swara kalpana in her unique fashion by adding a ragamalika train, each carriage landing on a swara in ascending scale with ragas such as Ranjani, Kanada, Hindolam, Ananda Bhairavi, Mohanam and Revati and the finale combining all the ragas. The objective was fulfilled. This novelty received a thunderous ovation from the audience.
Aruna also showed that she can turn sober with the sedate ‘Ehi Annapoorne' in Punnagavarali, ‘Seetha Vara' in Devagandhari and ‘Mani Noopura Dari' in Neelamabari. Oh yes! There was her speciality, the abhang -- ‘Vittala Vittala' -- before she concluded with ‘Thandai Thai Irunthal' in Shanmukhapriya made popular by the late N.C. Vasanthakokilam.
H.N. Bhaskar followed Aruna fantastically garnering applause now and then while J. Vaidyanathan and S. Karthick on the mridangam and the ghatam soft-pedalled with right tenor and decibel level.
The flute recital of B.V. BALASAI was sonorous in most of the segments but for a few shrill upper register sojourns. The ragas and kritis chosen were soft, like the opening ‘Thatvamariya Tharama' in Ritigowla with a few swara passages, the light ‘Tanyudevvado' in Malayamarutham and ‘Mamava Meenakshi' in Varali in the first section. His raga treatise of Varali was not too inspiring but conformed to standards. The niraval-swara package was done with credibility.
At this point, Balasai preferred to accelerate his concert with a quick ‘Saravanabhava' in Pasupathipriya and ‘Paavanaguru' in Hamsanandi. The latter had quick successive rounds of swaras. With these, he settled for the elaboration of Khambodi with time-tested phrases, long karvais, frills and pauses. ‘O Rangasayee' and the extension of his ingenuity were made visible on ‘Bhooloka Vaikuntam.'
He enjoyed good support from S.R. Mahadeva Sarma on the violin, Palladam R. Ravi on the mridangam and A.S. Shankar on the ghatam. Balasai's concert was pleasant; but there were only a few present. Maybe it was the late hour. Only rasikas should have the answer!