What I am today is only because of my three gurus — Sri Ivaturi Vijayeshwara Rao, Sangita Kalanidhi Sri M. Chandrashekharan sir and Sangita Kalanidhi M.L. Vasanthakumari amma. The knowledge that my gurus have imparted me is priceless. I bow down to each one of them. But I feel it was perhaps the will of God that I came under the tutelage of MLV akka. This association with her can be explained as that of a mother and child, guru and sishya, advisor and role model.
The 19 years (1971 till her demise) that I accompanied MLV akka were the golden years of my life. I don’t remember to have missed even one concert during that period. With pride I can say that while all her disciples were vocalists, I was her only violin disciple. To me each concert with her was a learning experience. Her music was spontaneous. Playing for her was a challenging experience because she would never discuss her plan for the day’s concert. This made it thrilling and interesting. And it needed total concentration and spontaneity from the accompanist too. She would honour the audience’s request for songs and ragas — be it a jana ranjaka song or dwiraga Ragam Tanam Pallavi.
In the concert format prevailing then, RTP was sung in three stages fior around 75-90 minutes. Sometimes I would request a few songs too. She had an unbelievably versatile voice which suited every form of music — classical, film, abhangs and Dasarnamas. In all my time spent with her, I did not see her practise a single day. She was also a eloquent speaker, who could hold the audience spellbound with her proficiency in Tamil, English, Kannada and Telugu. She was an icon of style, culture, power, humility and a person with great respect for others.
Hectic travelling across the country and abroad drew me closer to her since we spent a lot of time together. She was too popular then to have encouraged a newcomer like me, yet she constantly guided and shaped my music. She was probably the only musician, who encouraged a woman violinist throughout her career. She would always advise me to keep raising the bar. During her last days, she was kind enough to give me her electronic tambura .
I love and respect MLV akka the same way I do my parents. In fact sometimes I feel I have more memories and moments attached to her than my family. Perhaps this is why I was inconsolable when she passed away. My life had almost come to a halt when she left me. But deep inside I knew that her blessings were always with me — just as I feel her presence in every step I take. Something happened early this year to reassure me.
Just about the time I was thinking of doing something for MLV akka’s 90th birthday, I got a phone call from Shakunthala Iyengar, who is a great admirer of MLV akka. She expressed her wish to handover to me MLV akka’s Thanjavur tambura which my guru had gifted her in 1985. To me it is nothing short of a miracle and I am convinced that my bhakti and regard for her have been acknowledged by her. Now, after receiving this treasured possession of hers, I feel her presence with me all the more.
It was after this episode that I decided to give shape to my conceptual MLV 90 celebrations. When I expressed my desire to Sudha (Ragunathan), I was overwhelmed to know that she too was thinking on the same lines. She has taken the lead in arranging the event on July 3, at the Music Academy. Disciples of MLV akka like T.M. Prabhavati, V. Ramachandran and Charumathi Ramachandran are also with us. With the support of Vedant Ramanujam of Parampara, I am organising a competition in the categories of Dasar compositions and MLV cine classics. The first prize winners will be featured in Parampara concert series.
I have been organising concerts twice a year — on her birthday, July 3, and on her remembrance day, October 31. Young talented artistes perform under the banner of “Vasanthapriya.” My students perform too. This year Vasanthapriya will have its concert on July 2.
I was not sure whether MLV 100 would be a realistic thinking on my part. So wanted to celebrate MLV 90 in my lifetime! However, I do know that the strong lineage will make MLV 100 happen.