When Krithika Natarajan walked into legendary violinist Lalgudi Jayaraman’s house for the first time, she was nervous. When she began to sing, he asked, “Can you sing something of mine?”. She responded with a rendition of his thillana in raga Madhuvanti. He smiled. It reminded her of her previous guru and the camaraderie they share, even today.
“When I joined Dr. Manjula Sriram, I was six. She took me on as a member of the family, and our relationship was very comfortable and rather informal. I was just there because I was fascinated by the music,” Krithika reminisces.
The fascination continued to grow as Krithika matured and her music evolved into something more serious, taking her from one competition to the next on PSBB stage. A school that supports the classical arts, PSBB gave Krithika her first concert opportunity — a morning Margazhi kutcheri under the auspices of Bharat Kalachar. “It was the most I ever practised for a concert,” says Krithika.
“I was excited, eager to make a good impression. It was especially important since my guru was in the audience,” she says. The enthusiasm carried Krithika forward. She would often practice in the Agasthiyar temple near her house in T. Nagar. This proved useful when Manjula Sriram moved to Bangalore, leaving Krithika in search for someone to guide her.
“Mami (Jayaraman’s wife) heard me singing at the temple one day and asked me to join mama’s classes,” she says. The chance meeting paved the way for a five-year tutelage under the violin maestro. She remembers him as “an extremely relatable friend without the trappings of fame.” After 45 classes, she received her first ‘sabhash’ from the vidwan, a memory she holds dear along with the lessons he imparted . “Things like self-evaluating each of my concerts, remaining humble and giving my 100 per cent at all times, I learnt from him,” Krithika says.
Jayaraman’s demise during her second year as a commerce student in college came as a shock. Krithika took up a job for a year to distract herself from the loss, before rediscovering her true passion — the arts. She remembers feeling stranded and it took some time before she approached her current teachers — Ranjani-Gayatri, of whom she is a fan.
Three years have passed since she joined them, although she says it barely feels like a transition at all. “All of my gurus have treated me like a friend — that’s what has made the process so simple.” Krithika attempts to imbibe aspects of their artistry into her own, be it Ranjani’s kanakku, Gayatri’s flawless delivery, or the duo’s ability to judge the audience’s pulse.
“They have an open-minded approach to music. It allows me to stay true to the Lalgudi bani even while incorporating what they have taught,” explains Krithika.
What about her role as a performing artiste? “Being a performer is a result. But the art itself? You engage because it makes you happy. The only aspiration, then, is to be better than you were the previous day,” observes Krithika.