Veena Nirmala’s delineation of Purvikalyani and Lalitha were bold and vibrant.
Nirmala Rajashekar’s veena concert at The Chennai Cultural Academy Trust was an interesting mixed bag of features. She was accompanied by V.V.S. Murari on the violin, another string instrument. Unlike many instrument players, Nirmala made appropriate announcements of the kriti, raga, tala, composer, and also sang the main places of the chosen kriti adding some comments on the content of the composition or musical aspect.
Control on gamakam
First, the positive points: Nirmala’s opening item was Dikshitar’s ‘Vallabha Nayakasya’ in Begada with strongly etched swaras emphasising on the raga’s prime prayoga ‘mm grs’ with several combinations. The next one was Tyagaraja’s rare kriti ‘Maapala Velasi’ in Asaveri. Here, Nirmala mentioned that this composition has a Madyama Kala part which was not his usual practise. Gopalakrishna Bharati’s ‘Yaarukkuthan Theriyum’ in Deva Manohari came before she moved on to Purvikalyani raga alapana. The choice here was Neelakanta Sivan’s ‘Ananda Nadamaduvar’ with exciting niraval and swaras on ‘Paathi Mathi Jyothi.’ ‘Sarasa Sama Dana’ in Kapi Narayani of Tyagaraja filled the gap before she ventured on Lalitha.
Purvikalyani and Lalitha showcased Nirmala’s vision on the raga idiom. But, her mission seemed to express these ragas bold and vibrant. This suited the Purvikalyani piece and raga as it matched the mood of cosmic dance of Lord Siva, but Lalitha? Syama Sastri’s pleading tenor of ‘Nannu Brovu Lalitha’ turned demanding and forceful. The swara attaché too was overpowering. Nevertheless, from the musically procedural point of view, they restated Nirmala’s control and strong hold on ‘gamakam’ and ‘meettu.’
V.V.S. Murari cannot be blamed for sounding superfluous. He showed his credibility in raga exposition especially in Lalitha and also in Purvikalyani. Bala Sankar on the mridangam knows how to extend rhythmic support to a vainika without being intrusive. In the company of B.S. Purushotham on the ganjira he played his role well.
Now the flip side: the sound system was a tad loud for a soft and melodic instrument like veena. Even this was set right after initial hiccups. Why the air-conditioners should run on full blast chilling the sparsely occupied big auditorium and causing frequent slips in the sruti of the veena and mridangam? Is this fair in the acute power shortage situation?