It was vintage TVS, from start to finish. Empowered by a complete mastery over the art, the veteran vocalist provided his audience the thrill of speed. All the major elements of the concert – ‘Sogasuchuda Tharama’, (Kannada Gowlai, Tyagaraja), ‘Aparama Bhakti’ (Panthuvarali, Tyagaraja), ‘Bhuvini Dasudana’ (Sriranjani, Tyagaraja) and ‘Sarojadala Netri’ (Sankarabharanam, Syama Sastri) - came as a hurricane, raining swaras. In the process, aesthetics fell victim to the blitzkrieg -- an inescapable exception to the performance - even if one made an allowance for the concert being 'the same old Sankaranarayanan' all through. The singer bellows a lot - a good example of this was the raucous 'ra' in 'budha manohara' in the Sriranjani piece. A long-time TVS fan rationalised that the convalescent singer -- TVS underwent a surgery recently -- perhaps wanted to prove a point about his fitness, but that is hardly convincing.
One felt a stab of déjà vu as TVS sang the niraval and kalpanaswaras in Kannada Gowlai, Panthuvarali and Sankarabharanam, though this is not to say that they were not enjoyable. The 'Madurai Mani style' swara singing seldom fails to enchant, no matter how repetitive, which is a tribute to the great Madurai Mani Iyer, TVS's uncle and guru.
TVS chose the traditional points for niraval and swaras for both Panthuvarali and Sankarabharanam. The line 'Kapi Vaaridhi Daatuna' where Tyagaraja poses a rhetoric as to how could a monkey (Hanuman) have leapt across the ocean except with God's grace - is of a great emotive import, but alas this emotive appeal was lost in the holler. The choice of ‘Sarojadala Netri was rather obvious, it being a Friday. TVS was wise to pick up the line ‘Korivacchina' for niraval and swaras. The swaras, while sounding familiar, did provide a roller-coaster ride to the listener.
The best part of the performance was the Sriranjani alapana of Mahadevan Sankaranarayanan, TVS's son, disciple and co-singer at the concert. It was a brilliant alapana, full of aesthetic appeal. The boy has a bright future, we will be seeing a lot more of him.
Accompanists Nagai Muralidharan (violin) and Umayalpuram Sivaraman (mridangam) played in a manner that was consistent with their stature, although one must say that both artistes have played a lot better than they did that day. Sundar Kumar on the ganjira gave unobtrusive support.