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‘Appreciation more valuable than an award'

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PURIST AT HEART:Manda Sudharani
PURIST AT HEART:Manda Sudharani

Manda Sudharani's flair for the Pallavi is not news anymore. Her concerts are a matter of easy elegance – in reality, a weave of knowledge, craft and vidwat. The Music Academy's Pallavi Prize was hers in 1984 and Sri Krishna Gana Sabha also accorded early recognition to her, in this domain. A Top-A Grade artist of AIR, Hyderabad, she shares her experience here…

Her guru and other formative forces…

Initially, I learnt from K. Rangachari and then came under the tutelage of Ivaturi Vijayeswara Rao. He is one who consciously spends every moment of his life thinking only about music. He did not confine himself to playing the role of an accompanying violinist but went on to learn about 400 kritis, done without the assistance of books or relying on notation as a means to learning. His greatness took another dimension when he taught anyone who approached him. It is not merely the songs that he taught, but also lessons on how to put together a concert. His students spread across generations. (He is now teaching my daughter, Sruthi Ravali).

Also, my father's desire that I pursue music professionally and the support of my husband were positive contributions in shaping my musical career.

Your Pallavis and the effortless flow of swaras in such ragas as Gowdamalhar, Vardhini or Malavi…

I cannot think of any perceptible reason. My guru must have spotted the talent in me and steered me in that direction. It all depends on one's personality and I was ready to accept challenges.

As the saying goes ‘Mukhe Mukhe Saraswathi', it means each person presents his own aesthetic version and no one should be discarded or cast aside. I have had the chance to listen to many greats -- Ariyakkudi, Mani Iyer, GNB, Balamuralikrishna, KVN, Nedunuri and Voleti --- and that may have influenced me a lot in my presentations.

First performance in Chennai…

I envy the people of Chennai. Many musicians from Andhra Pradesh -- Balamuralikrishna, Chittibabu and Mandolin Shrinivas, to name a few -- have made the city their home. I too used to visit often - initially to listen and then to perform. My first concert in Chennai was under the auspices of Madras Telugu Academy. T.V.K. Sastry was instrumental in organising the programme. Subsequently, I performed at other sabhas including The Music Academy, Sarvani Sangeetha Sabha, Nadopasana and KGS. What is important to a performer is the nod of appreciation, that spontaneous ‘sabash', which stays in the mind and is more valuable than an award or a certificate. That appreciation, I've had in plenty from the Chennai audience.

On concert planning…

The idea should be to have the songs of the Trinity as a base. Ideally, a concert must include rakti ragas such as Yadukula Khambhodi, Khambodi or Sankarabharanam and a vakra raga. Provision should also be made for gamaka-oriented ragas (and songs) and Podi songs (in Kuntalavarali or Garudadhwani).

When it comes to pallavis, all the kritis I have sung have been my own. In fact, I adapted the pallavi of D.K. Jayaraman (‘Maa Mayura Meedhile Nee Vaa', Bilahari) and translated the lyric to Telugu. It became a great hit.

Today's budding performers need…

They should give up the desire to appear on television. Classical music calls for creativity which can be developed by listening, appreciating and thus getting into the process of preparing oneself completely.

The motto must be - learn and learn more. Also, ‘cassette-copying' will not help one achieve anything in the long run. If the performances of the masters are outstanding even today, it is because of the painstaking and strenuous journey they undertook over several years to perfect their art.

A word of caution. Over-exposure of youngsters will only have an adverse effect. Society is in need not merely of doctors or engineers but artists to preserve our culture and heritage. This responsibility rests with today's youth.

S. SIVAKUMAR

(sivakumar2004@gmail.com)


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