Chennai Margazhi: The major takeaways from Sanjay Subrahmanyan’s Thamizh concerts

The language — all its genres — lent itself to Sanjay Subrahmanyan’s sweep of imagination

The double bill of ‘Thamizhum Nanum’ concerts by Sanjay Subrahmanyan early this month made some powerful statements, and all through music and lyrics in Thamizh. It was a conquest of seven at one blow. Concerts of Thamizh songs, either of a single composer or of several composers are not new. Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar had performed concerts of Thiruppavai songs. For this particular event, the media blitz had created a curiosity that brought in houseful crowds expecting something new.

The two evenings exceeded expectations and many turned up for both the days. Astute concert planning and delectable choice of pieces ensured a good mix of the familiar and the unfamiliar, heard melodies in a fresh perspective and the unheard, honed to perfection. Search and probe lights were beamed in on all the nooks and corners of Tamil poetry and compositions, unearthing rare gems. Alwars, Arunachala Kavi, Gopalakrishna Bharati, Vallalar and Subramania Bharati jostled with Tiger Varadachariar, Mayuram Viswanatha Sastry, Koteeswara Iyer, M.M. Dandapani Desikar, Bharathidasan, Thaachi Arunachala Mudaliyar and several more. Other than the listener’s choice of ‘Thunbam Nergaiyil,’ no song was repeated over the two days. The awareness that there is enough material for many more concerts was a big takeaway for the listeners.

It was apparent that years of search, hours of learning and a process of deep thought and analysis had gone into acquiring the wealth of repertoire. With every song and its import etched in his memory, Sanjay needed neither notes nor student support to prompt him at any point. He sported and revelled in the lines with a freedom as though they were his own. After an emotion packed viruttam, ‘Anbe Aramude’ the hushed appeal in undertones of Thiruvadi Charanam rose to a crescendo through sangathis, which flowed like sancharis, going deeper and soaring at the same time. A senior Bharatanatyam guru and dancer was performing an internal abhinaya to the varied bhavams, tears rolling down her cheeks.

Demonstrating that the same impact could be created through a musical composition and lines of poetry, Subramania Bharati’s ‘Chandiran oliyil avalaik kanden’ was given an expansive treatment with alapana, niraval and swaram, earning the status of a weighty, classical piece.

These lines were taken up for niraval:

“Payan ennaamal uzhaikka chonnaal... Bhakthi seydhu pizhaikka chonnaal”

(Parasakthi told me to strive without thinking of the fruit of labour... She told me to sustain myself by means of Bhakthi)

Did they convey something more than the contextual meaning? The recurrence of the concept of Bhakti through several compositions on both the days seemed intentional in the scenario today where Bhakti is divorced from what is touted as pure music. “Kadavulai maravade,” Dhandapani Desikar’s composition in the lilting rare ragam Thandavam, electrified the audience.

Sanjay Subrahmanyan at the performance

Sanjay Subrahmanyan at the performance   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement


As a contrast, lines with no reference to God or Bhakti were chosen for Ragam Tanam Pallavi on both days. Desika Vinayakam Pillai’s

“Thamizhan endroru inamundu …’ was greeted with ecstatic squeals all over the auditorium. Love of the language found an echo every time the lyrics referred to Thamizh, as “thamizhil paadi,” “Innisai Thamizh amudam” and so on. Worship of the language is indeed another form of Bhakti, and on a metaphysical level sublimates into worship of the WORD, the AKSHARAM.

In both Bhakti and secular modes music came out the winner proving that Carnatic music in any language would sound as sweet. The lyrics carried the emotional quotient and heightened the experience. Every niraval and viruttam was savoured word by word, phrase by phrase as the listener travelled with the singer, imbibing the message they conveyed, implied and evoked.

There was something for every segment of the audience, the connoisseur, the layman, the Thamizh aficionado, the thukkada lover and of course, the fans of the singer. There were at least three rare songs that were a dancer’s delight, such as ‘Hara Hara Sivasankara,’ in the sonorous Gambhira Nattai, in the gait of a Mallari. The millennial crowd? They were present in large numbers, clad in jeans and Ts, glued to the seats and cheering with gusto.

Applause rained through the performance, the audience breathing as one with the team on the stage. The accompanists — Varadarajan, Neyveli Venkatesh, Guruprasad and K.V. Gopalakrishnan — made the two days a great team play, where everyone was alert and alive to the challenges and thrills of creativity. A dramatic pause, a suspense moment, a surprise turn of lyrical or musical phrase — there was drama through music of a high order.

It was a veritable Muthamizh feast of Iyal, Isai, Natakam facilitated by the organisers Showspace Entertainment.

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 12:50:17 AM |

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