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Applause all the way

Lalitha and Haripriya... excellent Todi.

VARADHARAJAN'S VIOLIN offered the appropriate repartees to Unnikrishnan's wide-range, full-throated, briga-ridden sancharas in Vasantabhairavi alapana. There was thundering applause. ``Nee Dayaradaa'' (Roopakam, Tyagaraja) was rendered with feeling and grace, with numerous musical adornments of the basic pallavi sahityam of two aavartanams in myriad ways, most pleasant to ear and mind. The mridangam and ghatam punctuated the piece beautifully. Come `charanam', and the artiste dropped into the slot `Raama, raama, raama' and bhakti oozed when the neraval started. Within minutes there was applause, and after the ensemble shifted gears to the brisk `durita kaala neraval' there was another uproarious applause, and then again, and once more. Was the audience spontaneously moved to expressing itself or did the young artiste's public image play a role in this unanimous accolade? How many clapped because it was expected of them?

A difficult question — the Chennai audience for all its apparent meekness, which rarely protests against improprieties, does not swallow everything that is offered. Chennai rasikas can be deceptively perceptive.

Mere gloss without depth does not go unnoticed, nor do errors in music or print, as both artiste and reviewer should be aware. Unnikrishnan's treatment was magnificent and deserved the royal encomium.

He established a powerful channel of emotional communication between the composer and the listener, in his rendition executed with total abandon

That mere alignment in spirit is enough to make for an excellent kalpanaswara thesis, without having to plunge into elaborate korvais with intricate arithmetic was convincingly demonstrated. The alapana in Bhairavi (``Janani maamava'', misrachapu) appeared to lack a scheme of development. Poor diction, a sad malady in singers, old and new, also claimed Unnikrishnan.

Some of the sahityas were undecipherable. In the kalpanaswara and tani, the voice — mridangam axis and the violin — ghatam axis spun like tops in a gyroscopic balance. Easwaran's mridangam sang at times, and at other times kept sruti, like a tanpura, while Karthik's ghatam pealed like a bell. Unnikrishnan flagged off the tani with an elegant and simple finale to his Bhairavi kriti.

The piece de resistance in the concert of the Hyderabad sisters, Lalitha and Haripriya (5 p.m.; December 23, 2001) at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Hall, attended by an interested audience numbering over 150, was surely the Todi number ``Sri Krishnam bhaja maanasa'' of Muthuswamy Dikshitar. It had the full complement of alapana (25 minutes between voice and violin), kirtana vistara (about 10 minutes) kalpanaswaras, neraval (10 minutes) and a tani of just two minutes. Alapana was addressed with serious commitment and feeling, favouring the lakshanas in the madhyama sthayi, which matched the course of the kriti. Sancharas in the upper `sthayis' could have been eschewed, in the interest of `sraavya'.

H. N. Bhaskar's treatment too was commendable, and in tune, more `izhaipp(u)' in the lower scale, and a few `vakra sancharas', which is flawless, nevertheless did not add lustre. The adventurism in the higher ranges set one on apprehension more than on appreciation. Balushankar on the mridangam and Adambakkam Shankar on the ghatam displayed their skill and depth in their accompanying roles noticeably.

Maturity in conception

Despite some loss of musical value, there was evidence of maturity of conception in the concert of Dr. Balushekar (resident of the U.S.). His Todi alapana and Sivan's `Kartikeya Gangeya' bore testimony to it, as also Dikshitar's ``Maamava Meenakshi'' through the `durita kala sahityam' and the neraval at ``Shyaame Sankari''. If the effort had been matched by an equal degree of maturity in the perception of where expression falls short of imagination, the concert would have risen to a higher level. S. V. Ramachandran came up with helpful support on his violin and Arjun Bharathy on the mridangam.

Sobha Sekhar, singing in a 2 p.m. concert, with the accompaniment of Poorna Vaidyanathan and Umayalpuram Kalyanaraman, sang some twelve items, devoting half an hour to her major essay, Bhairavi (``Balagopala, Palaya''). Subhapantuvarali and Nasika-bhushani were sung for `pratimadhyama' lakshana and Reetigowlai (delivered with marked dedication), Kamalamanohari, Bhairavi and Suddhadhanyasi for stressing the suddha-madhyama. Poorna was sound on `gamaka-sancharas', if a trifle uneasy in some swaraprasthara, and Kalyanaraman offered good support. Lalgudi Jayaraman's `padavarnam' composed for dance is hardly a happy choice for starting a music recital, when so many vintage varnams can lift a concert.

Importance of planning

Jayanthi Mohan's two-hour concert was a case study of the importance of concert planning. If Kamavardhini (``Enna gaanu Raamabhajana'', predictably with neraval at ``Rama chiluke nokada tinji'') and Todi (40 minutes, ``Chesina dela'') were appropriate choices to invigorate the audience on a drowsy afternoon, the earlier part of 20 minutes failed to take off, with an over-leisurely pace of the first item, ``Gajavadana'', the introduction of Jayanthasri (``Marukelara'') as the "one-down batsman" and `malika' of seven ragas (starting with an inopportune Neelambari) as the third. Melakaveri Thyagarajan (violin), attentive and committed, adhered faithfully to the singer's style in accompaniment, displaying good imagination in his independent excursions. N. Ramakrishnan's mridangam was at times tediously repetitive in its phrasings, with little variation. The tani seemed to be a bizarre compilation of `sollus'. Jayanthi has established a niche in the Chennai music terrain and can rise, but must first take pains to safeguard what she has.


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