The world over, he was known as Parur M.S. Gopalakrishnan. Yet, the legendary violinist did not know much about Parur.
Parur too did not have more than a nodding acquaintance with the great musician about whom the town takes great pride.
To the music world, and the Carnatic music fraternity in particular, the name ‘Parur’ is tagged with the great violin bani (style). Padma Vibushan M.S. Gopalakrishnan, popularly known as ‘MSG’, the proponent of the famous ‘Parur bani’, who passed away on December 3, had declared four years ago that he belongs to Parur although he had never lived there.
Parur, a small town near Aluva and the headquarters of a taluk with the same name, was the home town of MSG’s father Parur Sundaram Iyer, who himself was an outstanding violinist. Incidentally, it is Parur Sundaram Iyer who introduced the violin to Hindustani music in 1909, while learning under the legendary Hindustani musician Pandit D.V. Paluskar, then Principal of Gandharva Maha Vidyalaya, Mumbai.
Sundaram Iyer served as member of faculty there and returned to Chennai in 1922. He created a new style of violin recital by combining the features of Carnatic and Hindustani styles. This unique style came to known as ‘Parur bani’ and M.S. Gopalakrishnan became the chief proponent of the style. Apart from Dr. Narmada and Suresh, daughter and son of MSG, M.S. Anantharaman, brother of MSG and his two sons M.A. Sundareshan and M.A. Krishnaswamy, are the other torch bearers of the Parur bani now. Members of the next generation of these violinists are also following the tradition of the Parur bani.
“Sundaram Iyer’s family was living in the nearby street and they were our ‘Vadhyaar family’ (who had the right to carry out rituals in connection with weddings, deaths and other occasions among Brahmins in that locality). Sundaram’s elder brothers were “Vadhyars” and they hailed from Palakkad. It was hard for them to make ends meet there”, says octogenarian Ganapathy Iyer, former assistant general manager, Lord Krishna Bank. He says they migrated to Chennai, probably to pursue the music career of Sundaram Iyer.
The highly skilled and talented M.S. Gopalakrishnan soon carved a niche for himself with his hard work and dedication. He learned both Carnatic and Hindustani styles and soon became a top ranking violinist of the country. His name too was tagged with Parur, just like his father’s.
At a civic reception accorded to him at Parur four years ago, MSG declared, “I am not M.S. Gopalakrishnan; I am Parur M.S. Gopalakrishnan”.
“Even his email ID had the name Parur” says R. Venugopala Menon, music connoisseur and photographer, who was instrumental in bringing MSG to Parur in 2008. “That visit of MSG to Parur was after 50 years” says Mr. Venugopal. “We could not show him or his children any trace of the Agraharam where his ancestors lived. It had been demolished and new buildings have come up.” But Mr. Venugopal says MSG’s daughter Dr. Narmada, and son Suresh were extremely happy to be in Parur. The common man in Parur seems to know little about the great musician. But there are a large number of MSG fans in Parur, like elsewhere. Renowned violinist Sangeethakalanidhi M. Chandrasekharan (Chennai) said, “We have lost a great violinist who could mesmerise everyone with his recital. Once I heard him play the Ata Thala Varnam in a single (G) string, that too in two kaalas!”.
“We have played together ‘Jugalbandhi’ as well. He was a great artist who loved me so much and recognised my abilities”, remembers Dr. Chandrasekharan.