Girish Surendra's Thodi was enjoyable. Amritha's Khambodi was wholesome.
A voice endowed with a deep bass content, rich timbre and ‘ravai,' are the basic ingredients that make one an effective singer. Girish Surendra possessed all these features in abundance and that surfaced during his opening number (varnam in Kanada, Adi talam), sung at a slow speed and changing to madhyama kaalam in the charanam. Following this came a pleasing rendering of Muthuswami Dikshitar's kriti in a single-beat Adi talam and raga Saraswati Manohari, with the same words for sahityam.
He focussed on Purvikalyani and Thodi. Starting with a stress on the gandharam, his voice, powerful at the lower ranges, could easily deliver the ideas his manodharma formed, to delineate Purvikalyani with good fidelity. Surendra produced sancharas that could extract the essence of the raga lakshana. It was also not surprising that the singer did justice to Tyagaraja's composition in Rupaka talam, ‘Paripooraka, Rama..' followed by a lively niraval and kalpanaswara exchange at the charanam ‘Saaketa Vipanee Mukha' set to a combination of the swaras, pa, ma, ga, ri. Similarly, his development of Thodi left an enjoyable impression. The handling of Kumara Ettendra Bhupathi's ‘Gajavadana Sammodita Veera' at a deliberate pace evoked the majestic gait of the Elephant God. On the lighter side, there were Anandabhairavi (‘Ethanaithan Katralum'), Begada (‘Yaadedakilum Bhayama') and Paras (‘Smara Sundaraanguni,' javali). Roopa Rajagopal and K.S. Ramana went along with the singer in support.
In the Dhanyasi (RTP), Khambodi (‘Sri Raghuvara, Mamava'), Ritigowla (‘Janani') and Saveri (‘Sankari Samkuru') that Amritha Murali presented in her concert, one could see competent programming. While on the context of programme composition, there was a dominance of Suddhamadhyama pieces (the concert began with Surutti, Kuntalavarali and Gangeyabhushani were in the ragamalika RTP), the monotony of the pattern was broken only by the brief interlude of Yamunakalyani earlier (Dikshitar's ‘Jamboopate Maam Pahi Chidaananda') and Subhapantuvarali at the end in the RTP. The Pallavi (in a Khandajati Triputa talam format with double beat) had an interesting sahityam appeal, in the words, ‘Dhanyasi Siva Jataa Madhyage Gange Tunga Tarange,' picking on the words ‘Dhanyasi' for rendering in Dhanyasi raga, ‘Siva Jataa' to rope in Kuntalavarali and ‘Gange' to usher in Gangeyabhooshani. The six-minute raga alapana and five-minute thanam (shared between the singer and the violinist) were not the artist's focus, but it was the pallavi. The novelty of the pallavi wore out earlier than the time it lasted. One felt wistfully that the 32 minutes which was allocated to RTP could have been invested for better musical return.
Short as it was, Syama Sastri's ‘Sankari' in Saveri was a clincher, , raising the concert to a high degree of sprightliness. Kalpanaswaras ricocheted between Amritha and Nishant Chandran, as Nellai Balaji emphasised the ‘tisric' pattern with synchronising bounces on his mridangam.
In sharp contrast with the mood generated in the vivacious Saveri came one of Subbaraya Sastri's ‘Janani Ninnuvina.' The natively high- pitched voice of Amritha facilitated her to reach the lower shadja as this song requires. Her flexible voice could execute a range of vibrant brigas and well-phrased ravai-sancharas. Nishant's skill at both the bow and the fingerboard supplemented his musical sensitivity to produce tuneful results. While listening to Nellai Balaji accompanying the other two in ‘Janani...', one wondered if he was using the same instrument as he used in the earlier ‘Sankari.' Such was the merging with the singer, in the true character of an accompanying artist.
Amritha developed Khambodi steadily through its nuances, and made a very pleasing impression, although a listener might have been slightly puzzled by the prayoga ‘ga ma pa dha ni sa'. Maturity, commitment and conviction underscored her effort, and it paid off through a neat and wholesome 20-minute Khambodi. Nishant's essay matched Amritha's in melodic value, although Amrita excelled in the planning, while Nishant's excursions appeared to ramble a little. The niraval and kalpanaswaras at the charanam (‘Saarasa Hita Kulaabja Brinda') sailed along, with the violin making generous use of the bass string to tone up the strain and the mridangam making every conceivable contribution to the improvisations, and at the end, taking up the thani. In a brief five minutes, through peels of tisra and sprays of chatusras, Balaji produced a masterful thani to the delight of the audience.