Three musician-couples talk about their equation on stage, audience response and so on…
We know of people who are ‘wedded' to their professions. And when the profession is music, home is where practice sessions and the planning that goes into a concert, take place.
So what happens when two people who are wedded to music are also married to one another? What if the wife is a vocalist and the husband an accompanist? Are there ego clashes?
Dr. Pantula Rama, whose husband M.S.N. Murthy accompanies her on the violin, says, “We were established artists in our own right before we got married.” But how does Murthy feel when she is the main artist and he, the accompanist? What about the proverbial male ego? “I think artists moved away from such narrow-mindedness long ago. Take DKP and DKJ, for example. DKJ was quite happy to sing in kutcheris where his sister was the main vocalist.”
Mudhra Bhaskar plays the mridangam for his wife Dr. Radha Bhaskar's concerts. When people walk out during her husband's thani avartanam, doesn't it hurt? Says Radha, “I'd feel bad whoever the mridangam player may be. On stage, Bhaskar and I are just view each other as artists, not husband and wife.” Adds Bhaskar, “I don't feel hurt when members of the audience walk out. At such times, I resolve to educate people about the beauty of a thani avartanam.”
“When a husband-wife team is on stage, people might be tempted to think that's what makes the performance click. But it's not that way at all,” says Murthy.
Regardless of who the vocalist is, an accompanist always wants to give his best. Isn't that the hallmark of a true professional, he asks.
Murthy says he and Rama don't plan or rehearse together.
“Even if it is a pallavi, she just informs me about what she is going to sing. We're mutually supportive, however. After a kutcheri, we review both her singing and my playing.” Murthy is also a vocalist, and when he sings, Rama plays the violin, so there's a role reversal there. Both of them say that each is proud of the other's accomplishments.
Mridangam artist Srimushnam Raja Rao and vocalist wife Padma Sandilyan aren't seen on stage together. Ask Raja Rao why, and he says, “Padma doesn't even want me to attend her concerts. She says it makes her nervous. But I sneak in anyway!”
Padma says, “It's not just my husband whose presence makes me nervous. I used to be nervous even when my father (writer Sandilyan) was there. And I'd be more than scared when my guru K.V. Narayanaswamy was in the audience.”
She adds that Raja Rao never fails to compliment or criticise her, as the situation warrants. Padma usually sends her students to Raja Rao to learn pallavis.
“My father used to review kutcheris for Kumudam, and he wrote about my husband saying that his mridangam ‘sings.' This was long before we got married. So my father was first an admirer of my husband, before he became his father-in-law.” Raja Rao sometimes suggests what kritis to sing, and helps Padma gauge audience reaction.
Looks like music has only made the marital bond stronger in the case of these couples. In the case of Radha and Bhaskar, their son's name symbolises how music binds them. “We've named him Jatiswaran,” says Bhaskar.
And what if it had been a daughter? “We'd have named her Swarajati!”