Her choice of kritis and ragas was ample proof of Sudha Ragunathan’s vidwat.
A paradigmatic musician of our times, Sudha Ragunathan’s concert saw expectations catapult to a new high, all the more because quite a few of her previous concerts were cancelled for one reason or the other.
At the Academy, her vidwat was exhibited even in the selection of songs. It covered a cross-section of ragas that spelt variety - Pantuvarali, GambiraNattai, Pushpalathika, Jangaradhwani, Kathanakuthoohalam, Sankarabaranam, MLV’s own ‘Baro Krishnaiah’ and, to crown it all, a pallavi in Bhavapriya.
The pick of this rasika was ‘Neerajakshi Kamakshi’ (Hindolam, Dikshitar). The urge to render this kriti must have come after some rumination. The trajectory of her alapana with emphasis on the mandhara sthayi traverses gently imposed this kriti on your psyche. You felt that she was taking you with her towards this kriti.
The kutcheri reached its culmination point in the form of an RTP. The pallavi (Bhavapriya) ran thus; ‘Enna Punniyam Seidheno Sadgurunadha, Nee Enakkarul,’ set in tisra jathi ata tala. The tanam was made of fine fabric and was articulate in detail. The swara exercise had Atana, Ritigowla and Tilang.
Sudha had the common man’s agenda too in mind. It came in the form of ‘Baro Krishnaiah,’ which began at ‘Venu Nadhava Maduthire,’ almost with religious adherence to the original and thus consciously aiming to attain/touch it.
There must have been quite a few in the huge audience who must have expressed their addictive (nostalgic!) response by whatever means they could, when this song came up.
Then came a slokam in honour of her guru. This had reference to her guru’s native deity, Kuthanur Saraswathi, MLV’s guru GNB and a direct reference to MLV (Vasanthi) and her traits. This tribute was phrased by veena vidwan Vasanth Kumar.
Hiccups in her voice surfaced at times while negotiating a few sangatis, but she got over it in a flash, readying herself to move to the next movement (moment) with renewed energy. She is too seasoned to get bogged down by any such constraint(s).
Embar Kannan on the violin who is open to challenges’ played an alapana of Hindolam that captured the vocalist’s orientation, both in letter and spirit and the same applied in full measure to his essays of Sankarabaranam and Bhavapriya.
The laya group that had Tiruvarur Vaidhyanathan (mridangam), Guruprasad (ghatam), Gopalakrishnan (ganjira) and Raman (morsing), operated at the right level and proved to be a fitting combination to accompany Sudha.
As they played, syllables with their rhythmic connotations were stroked both vibrantly and clarity. The use of permutations had an order and never was an endless dapple of combinations. For the songs, this foursome proved that they were truly indispensable as accompanists, with a good grip on laya - each one of them. They were also able to gauge the tempo of the songs to a nicety and played accordingly.