O.S. Thiagarajan was in fine form. Unnikrishnan, whose voice sounded muffled, showcased the richness of Bhairavi.
When senior vocalist O.S. Thiagarajan opened his concert with the Sahana raga Adi Tala Varnam of Veena Kuppier, it was clear that his voice was in fine form and well aligned to the sruti. He was accompanied on the violin by T.H. Subrahmanyam, B. Harikumar on the mridangam and Coimbatore V. Mohan Ram on the ghatam.
After the varnam, the first kriti of the kutcheri was ‘Kamalapthakula' in Brindavana Saranga, Adi Talam of Tyagaraja did not help in settling the concert in good form. The Arabhi raga alapana for ‘Juthamu Raare', the Rupaka Talam composition of Tyagaraja was a good exposition. The song with kalpanaswara at the pallavi added pep to the performance. The Asaveri raga piece of the same composer in Adi Tala ‘Lekhana' was a felicitous delivery.
Thiagarajan took up Kalyani for alapana and it seemed to be a thorough exploration of the raga. The effort was good but resulted in consuming considerable time. In the alapana the musician did a gruha bhedam in the rishaba swara revealing Harikhambodi which is obtained by the shift. The raga alapana ‘Sundari Ni',the Adi tala Tyagaraja composition with niraval and kalpanaswaras and a thani by mridangam and ghatam artists consumed more than an hour and ten minutes reducing the time available for the Ragam Tanam Pallavi.
Before taking this up, Thiagarajan rendered the Saveri raga, Misra Chaapu tala, composition of Periyasami Thooran. The pallavi was in Nattakurinji raga, Khanda Triputa tala and the lyric ‘Thathadhimi Tha Dhimi Dhim Enu Sada...'
The raga alapana was for four minutes, and the violinist Subrahmanyam's essay for just a minute and the total time was for 23 minutes. One felt that the effect of the concert would have been better if the time allotment was interchanged between the Kalyani and RTP sessions.
Natakurinji offers wide scope and one's manodharma can be unleashed well. But these days, RTP is more like a ritual, and senior musicians have to be role models for younger artists. The pallavi execution was gone through by both the musician and the violinist. All the accompanying artists played their roles flawlessly and scrupulously acquitting themselves well. The kutcheri concluded with a Kannada composition ‘Sada Ena Hridayadalli' in Behag,Rupaka Tala, and ‘Nadupai Palikeru', the Madhyamavati Tyagaraja kriti in Khanda Chapu Talam. With better time management, the kutcheri would have soared to greater heights!
At the outset, Unnikrishnan began the concert with a Pantuvarali varnam. Accompanying him were Vittal Ramamurthy on the violin, K.V. Prasad on the mridangam and Adambakkam K. Shankar on the ghatam. The artist totally deviated from the list provided by him. ‘Sivakama Sundari' of Gopalakrishna Bharati in Jaganmohini had rounds of kalpanaswaras flowing forth. What followed was a Meesu Krishna Iyer sahityam in Ranjani, beginning ‘Paramapavani' in Adi tala. Only the song was sung sans swaram and niraval.
Swati Tirunal has composed a Manipravala song in his Utsavaprabandha series, describing the second day of the ten-day festival at the Sri Padmanabha Swami Temple. The Thodi kriti opens with the words ‘Pankajaakshanam Rameshan.' Unnikrishnan featured this with only niraval on the charanam line ‘Padmanabha Pahi Pahi.' Thus the concert was devoid of raga alapana until this point.
The second Gopalakrishna Bharati composition was ‘Darisitha Alavil' in Lathangi and Misra Chapu Talam. Lathangi was the first raga delineation before the song. This piece had its share of kalpanaswaras.
For the Bhairavi raga alapana, the kriti taken up was Tyagaraja's ‘Upacharamulanu' with niraval and kalpanaswaras at the usual charanam line ‘Kapata Nataka'. The artist completed it with a thani by K.V. Prasad and Shankar who played well.
In concerts these days, the rasikas are left wondering whether the Ragam Tanam Pallavi which used to be the centre piece those days, is now getting a tail end status. In Unnikrishnan's kutcheri, by the time the Bhairavi kriti and thani got over, a major portion of the concert time had been consumed. The Pallavi ragam was Kalyanavasantham. In the ragamalika kalpanaswaras, the ragas were Varali, Andolika and Bahudari.
Unnikrishnan has developed a unique style of enunciation of the sahityas which leaves the ends of words distorted and unclear. The words of the pallavi, therefore, could not be understood well. His voice has also undergone some variations. Blessed with a facile voice with accurate sruti fidelity, he does not have to resort to any other manner of singing but an open throated one. In this concert, one got an impression that Unnikrishnan was singing with gritted teeth and muffling the voice with vowels such as ‘ee' and ‘ree.' For his kind of voice, full akara open throated singing would enhance the beauty of the kritis.
The supporting role of the accompanying artists in the concert was highly appreciable and impeccable. A Kavadi Chindu, a slokam from ‘Narayaneeyam' recited in Madhyamavati concluded the concert.