They sing and dance to Venkatakavi’s tunes, but how aware are artists of the temple’s plight? Geetha Venkatramanan
Chitravina Ravikiran, who conducts workshops on the poet’s compositions, is aware of the temple’s condition. “The issue has been taken up and efforts are on to give it heritage site status so that the State’s support is assured. Yes, it is the duty of the artists to protect the temple that has inspired so many beautiful songs which are presented in concerts, both music and dance,” he says.
Dr. Padma Subrahmaniam has been campaigning for the renovation of the temple for the past few years. “It is not a big temple but has such aura,” she says. It was in a pathetic state when I visited it. I made a request for State funds to the then Commissioner of HR and CE, who promised to look into the affair. There is a Trust but who are the members? Recently, presenting a programme at TTD, Chennai, she appealed to the Devasthanam to help with the renovation and maintenance of the temple. The Devasthanam has responded by saying it will include it in the list of temples that need attention. “I dedicated a performance in Bangalore to Venkatakavi, who was senior to Tyagaraja,” the exponent informs. “He has written beautiful Pancharatnam, which could have influenced the Tiruvaiyaru bard. Legend goes that child Krishna kept Venkatakavi company even as the poet was singing in ecstasy. The temple is part of our rich heritage and has to be restored.”
Aruna Sairam, whose concerts are not complete without a song of Oothukkadu Venkata Subbaiyer, speaks with feeling. “Dr. Kris Yogam, a friend of mine in the U.S., was so moved by the dilapidated state of the temple that she offered the seed money to start the work. Everyone should pitch in to save the treasure,” Aruna grew up listening to Venkata Subbaiyer’s songs thanks to Needamangalam Krishnamurthi Bhagavathar, a descendant of the Kavi. “He stayed in our house whenever he visited Mumbai and taught my mother a number of songs to which I caught on. We had bhajan sessions on Wednesday and these included four or five of Oothukkadu’s songs,” she explains.
It is the thillana that keeps the listener riveted. Percussion and vocal combine in a jubilant expedition, beginning on a low key to reach a rousing crescendo, bringing alive Krishna’s rhythmic steps on the serpent’s head. “Again Needamangalam Bhagavathar was the inspiration,” informs Aruna. “His rendition was awesome. I improvise here and there to give it a personal touch.” The happy news is that Aruna will soon dedicate a concert to Oothukkadu and the proceeds will go to the renovation of the temple.