There was precision in T.N.S. Krishna's raga sketches. Bhakti was the main ingredient of Prasanna Venkatraman's recital.
T.N.S. Krishna used his full-throated voice to render Pantuvarali and Tyagaraja's ‘Siva Siva Siva Enarada’ in Rupakam. His powerful vocal range carried from the lower gandhara to the upper panchama with ease. His durita kala akara sancharas were pleasing and flawless, and helped him deliver the song with impeccable precision, albeit with a disposition to pronounce ‘Siva as ‘Shhiva’. The niraval and kalpanaswaras at ‘Agama Mula’ bristled with life, thanks to the energetic support of Anayampatti G. Venkatasubramanian (violin) and M.S. Varadan (mridangam).
After a fairly long Sanskrit verse in viruttam, in place of alapana in Anandabhairavi, came Syama Sastri's ‘Marivera Gati Everamma’ in misra chapu talam. Sankarabharanam was clearly the outstanding number of in the concert. The artist dwelt on the raga's range with great deliberation, letting the raga seep into the consciousness of the listeners. He patiently inched up to pa and scanned the sanchara in the panchama-madhyama-gandhara part, characteristic of this raga, stressing the pure madhyama, and proceeding to the upper shadja. Following the development of the raga by Venkatasubramanian in his own style, Krishna presented Muthuswamy Dikshitar's navavarana kriti ‘Sri Kamalaambikayaa’. After nearly 30 minutes of rich treatment, Krishna invited Varadan to proceed with his thani.
The alapana in Subhapantuvarali for RTP was strewn with sancharas, both slow and fast in normal and vakra patterns, providing a rich aural experience and drawing repeated ovation. Venkatasubramanian contributed scintillating passages in both ragam and tanam phases. In the latter, he had many crisp phrases to offer which did substantial justice to the tanam format. The pallavi was in a four-beat Khandajati triputa talam at samam on the first finger. The concert came to a close with a viruttam in Tamil, which spanned ragas Khambodi, Thodi, Hamsanandi and Khamas, followed by the Tamil song ‘Sundari En Soppanathil Vandadaai’ in Khamas, rupakam, of Sankara Sivan.
It is not just the gamaka, briga and sancharas, a rich voice or even the firm foundation in Carnatic music that would make a music lover who heard him aver that this young man is truly talented. The one ingredient which elevates Prasanna Venkataraman to a different plane for this rasika is the element of bhakti (humility in the approach and treatment of every raga and kriti with reverence to the spirit of the composition or tune).
Take the Poorvikalyani piece, ‘Satru Vilaki-irum Pillai’. When rendered with feeling, this kriti can conjure the anguish of the devotee who is denied the opportunity to catch a glimpse of his favourite deity. Prasanna sang this with deep feeling and capped it with well-developed niraval and kalpanaswaras. Prasanna, Karaikal S. Venkatasubramanian and Tanjore K. Praveen Kumar clearly formed a team with great synergy.
Next came Muthuswamy Dikshitar's ‘Neerajakshi Kamakshi’ in Hindolam with a strong North Indian accent, delivered with total commitment.
The brilliant pattern of deliberate chittaswaram and sahitya which the composer has built into the kriti greatly assisted the singing. The resounding applause at the end of it testified the genuine appreciation of the listeners.
A spontaneous ovation came in generous measure for the next item too – Tyagaraja’s ‘Vinaradhana’ in Devagandhari, Adi talam. Next was Mukhari.
Every note and every phrase spoke of the love the artist has for the raga and the kirtana. The singer could not spare himself in refining every sanchara or sangati in ‘Muripemu galiye gada’ of Tyagaraja, set in a double-beat Adi.
For niraval at ‘Parama Purusha Jagadeesa’, karuvais extended to one full avartanam. Venkatasubramanian's violin blended with the voice, there was sweetness and precision in the playing. The violinist filled the gaps of the singer's pauses with admirable propriety.
The role of the percussion often goes unnoticed. While the voice and the violin have the facility of making aesthetic musical combinations and permutations the mridangam has very little leeway. Through sensitive modulation, appropriate phrasing and soft playing, he brings out melody. Praveen Kumar gave several demonstrations of these aspects throughout. In the thani, he displayed his arithmetic and timing. In short, he obviously loves his instrument and its role.