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He popularised an off-beat style

THE SECOND death anniversary of Palluruthy Ramankutty Bhagavathar who inspired generations of musicians and music lovers for more than half a century is just over.

He did for music what many people could not. Sangeetha Kalanilayam, established by Bhagavathar at Palluruthy in 1950 is an unconventional music school which provided a stepping stone to the world of music for thousands of students including celebrities like Padmabhushan K.J.Yesudas. His real name was T.K. Ramankutty Menon. His father, Krishnan Elayidom, was a school master and a poet. After initial training in music from Kunjan Velu Asan, Ramankutty Menon moved over to the Annamalai University where he had the oppurtunity to imbibe lessons from stalwarts like Tiger Varadachariar, Thanjavur Ponnayya Pillai, T.K. Rangachari and Sathur A.G. Subramaniam. He also had advanced lessons in music from Kalidasa Nilakanta Iyer in Chennai. After brief spells in Akashvani, Kozhikode and Rama Varma Union High School, he established Sangeetha Kalanilayam in 1950. He ran this school until his death two years ago.

Over the years, Sangeetha Kalanilayam distinguished itself from other music schools in many respects. Bhagavathar ran it without any financial assistance from either the Government or private agencies. He charged only a nominal fee for teaching music. He also came to the rescue of many financially weak students. He took upon teaching music as a mission, a sort of archana to Goddess Saraswathi.

A true example of pious living, he practised what was recommended by great composers in their compositions. His long list of disciples includes many celebrities and more than 600 music teachers. Apart from Yesudas, the list includes Manju Menon, Deleema, Selma George, Gayathri Sreekrishnan, Palluruthy Brothers (whose concerts were popular in the sixties), Kochi Viswanathan, Ganesh Prabhu, Bipin Kumar, Alex Pullossery and Saratchandran.

Some Christian priests, including Fr. Dominic and a few nuns, have learned music under him. Bhagavathar had the unique fortune to witness the golden jubilee celebrations of the school on March 25, 2000.

Yesudas honoured him with a three-hour concert. The expenses for the celebrations were met by contributions only from disciples. His teaching style was different. He was not satisfied with mechanical rendering of Krithis. Since music is a form of art to be enjoyed, his advice to his disciples was simple. He reminded them that a concert can reach great heights only if the artiste takes care to enjoy what he performs.

He departed from the academic style by insisting on paying attention to the meaning of Krithis and subtle ranges of raga bhava. Bhagavathar has also composed a few Krithis. Bhagavathar's disciples are now contemplating the formation of a trust in his memory.

A committee has been formed for the purpose with P.K.Vijayan as the secretary. He is survived by his wife Saraswathy, son Prof. P.R. Muraleedharan and daughter, P.R. Rajakumari, a music teacher.


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