Of performing arts

Svanubhava conducted for aspiring students of music had many useful exercises besides feeding them with details on the history of Tamil cinema.

Updated - December 05, 2021 09:18 am IST

Published - August 12, 2010 08:49 pm IST - Chennai

ARTISTIC DIALOGUE: (Clockwise L-R) Folk theatre artistes, Chitavina N. Ravikiran, A.K.C. Natarajan, ARS and Crazy Mohan. Photos: R. Shivaji Rao

ARTISTIC DIALOGUE: (Clockwise L-R) Folk theatre artistes, Chitavina N. Ravikiran, A.K.C. Natarajan, ARS and Crazy Mohan. Photos: R. Shivaji Rao

One can't be dismissive of them as ‘mere' kids. They are taking down notes meticulously, and discussing the previous day's programme during breaks. It's the second day of Svanubhava, 2010. The venue is Kalakshetra. Aman of Roots Montessori, says he is learning to play the piano. He has never heard a Carnatic music concert before, but he is at Svanubhava to get to know about Carnatic music. Aiswarya and Ananth Srivatsa, both from PSBB, have been learning Carnatic music for the past five years. A clarionet concert by A.K.C Natarajan, is followed by a question answer session, in which A.K.C. Natarajan speaks of how he overcame odds to present Carnatic music on a Western instrument, without making any compromises.

Talking about therukoothu, V.R. Devika emphasises that one should not classify art as folk and classical. Everything is folk, for, folk means people, and isn't art for, by and about people? The audience is given a brief glimpse into koothu, by Rajagopal and the students of his Kattaikuttu Gurukulam. A few scenes from the Mahabaharata are enacted. Traditionally, women never acted in Therukoothu, but in Kattaikuttu Gurukulam, both boys and girls are trained, and they play male and female roles. “The percussionist in therukoothu, plays the dholak with one hand and the mridangam with the other,” explains Rajagopal. For the benefit of the audience, the leg harmonium is turned round, so that the audience can see how the bellows are operated, using a pedal.

Lecture on Pallavis

Ravi Kiran's lecture demonstration on pallavis comes soon after lunch. Ravi Kiran says Pallavi is one of the grandest pieces of concert music, offering as it does tremendous scope for improvisation. One should have a grasp over some fundamental aspects, like the take off point (eduppu) and the musical mean or median of the tala. After every piece he demonstrates, Ravi Kiran asks the students to identify the eduppu and the mid point. And every time, many hands go up, and the children come up with the answer. And they are spot on every time.

“For a pallavi with a simple structure, elaboration is all right, but elaboration for a complex one, would not be aesthetic,” Ravi Kiran says. As for mridangam accompaniment for thanam, as in Kerala, he says there is nothing wrong with it. But he adds that rhythm is in-built in a thanam, and that is its beauty. A tala cycle is not necessary to bring out the beauty of inherent rhythm. He also briefly touches upon pancha jati pallavis.

At leisure

After this wonderful teaching session on pallavis, it's time for some fun. But when ARS and Crazy Mohan talk about ‘Humour in films and on stage,' it becomes obvious that humour is a serious business, although Crazy would definitely object to the use of the word ‘serious,' which is anathema to him. ARS takes the audience through the history of Tamil films from the silent movie era until modern times. Humour in films can be classified into the pre-N.S.Krishnan and post-N.S.Krishnan eras, for it was NSK who first introduced comic punch lines in Tamil films. Prior to that comedy was mainly of the slapstick variety. ARS speaks of how sometimes comedy scenes just evolved, without any planning, the famous Dharumi scene in the film ‘Thiruvilaiyadal' being one. Here Nagesh's opening line, “He will not come”, was prompted by Sivaji not being able to make it to the shoot on time, because he wasn't through with his make-up as Lord Siva. On seeing the rushes, Sivaji predicted that this comedy scene would be the life of the film, a prophecy that proved true! In the early years of drama, actors had to be good singers too. If an actor sang a popular song, and then died soon after, the audience would ask for an encore! The ‘dead' character would rise, sing the same song, and promptly die again!

Crazy Mohan says that life itself is full of humour, if only one's mind is open to it. And when something important has to be communicated to the audience, the best way to do it is through humour. Haven't humorists like G.B. Shaw made important observations through their humorous writings?

The secret behind his giving a character the name Janaki in every play of his? That's his way of paying tribute to his school teacher Janaki, who trained him to perform the role of Kattabhomman in a school play, and thus gave him a love for theatre.

Talking of teachers, when the students at Svanubhava were so disciplined, music teachers from a college, talked constantly on their cell phones, despite repeated requests to switch off their cell phones. Requests to at least keep down their voices were also ignored. Maybe they should learn some audience etiquette from the school children.

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