Senior Art Critic S.N. Chandrashekar, 93, died this morning in Bengaluru at his residence in Hanumanthnagar. His family sources confirmed that he died at 9.15 a.m. this morning, January 19.
“As he was getting ready to leave for his journal work at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, he felt extremely tired and uncomfortable. Within half an hour his end came peacefully at home,” confirmed his brother M. Krishnaswamy. “For the last 10 years Chandrashekar had suffered from extreme pains due to sciatica,” he said.
Mr. Krishnaswamy said even at 93, his brother, as usual, was committed and punctual towards his work and routine. “He was a dancer, musician to start with and later took to writing and was associated with Kannada and English newspapers in the city, He was still working for Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and went to the Bhavans office till yesterday. He remained a highly satisfied man in life,” said Mr. Krishnaswamy.
The house of Salem Nanjundaiah Chandrashekar this morning was crowded with well-known names from the music, dance, theatre and painting world who wanted to have a last look at the nonagenarian associated with the art world. “He was a walking dictionary in classical arts, and a guide to everyone who wanted his advice,” felt many artistes gathered there.
Chandrashekar, who remained a bachelor, is survived by his three brothers, Krishnaswamy, (retd) Professor in Physics, S.N. Ganesh (retd) engineer, and S.N. Subbarao of the Gandhi Peace Foundation.
Says H.N. Suresh, Director, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, “Mr. Chandrashekar may have been 93, but he was still a pillar for Bhavan’s journal that he edited for the last 25 years.”
“Chandrashekar's reviews were education material to most artistes who wanted to improve on their art. He also edited books for the Karnataka Lalitha Kala Academy and the Karnataka Sangeetha Nrithya Academy and was the Adviser for the Vidwan R.K. Srikantan Trust,” said Mr. Suresh.
Mr. Chandrashekar, a dance and Carnatic music critic known for his abjectly frank opinions in his reviews took to writing only after he underwent serious lessons from Sohal Lal in Kathak, Yellappa Pillai in Bharatanatya and Mysore Thangamma in Carnatic music.
“Don’t become a critic if you haven’t been trained in the art, only training provides you with an inner eye to identify the good and bad,” was his serious advice to critics, recalls dance patron R.K. Usha who is associated with his guidance in her programming since 45 years. “If you can follow the tala to the gati going on in dance, then you can connect to writing too,” was his analysis.
Usha says he was fearless, even the renowned names who visited Bangalore for their performances would be weary of his straight forward opinion. And all this he did by being an abject principled man,” she says. “His end in a way brings the curtains down on an era of sincere bold journalism in art review,” says Usha.
Chandrashekar headed the S.V. Narayanaswamy Rao Award Committee from 2000 onwards and had personally handed over the first Award in 2000 to M.S. Subbulakshmi, said S.N. Varadaraj, of Chamarajpet Ramaseva Mandali. “Even Subbulakshmi was surprised when SNC had pointed out that he wanted to listen to a particular kriti that she hadn’t sung for many years!” said Mr. Varadaraj.
"SNC was an unblemished human being"
Says Bharatanatyam dancer Prathibha Prahlad, "S.N. Chandrashekar loved dance and music because he knew the art. He delved profoundly into it and that is one reason his opinion really mattered to dancers and musicians. Mr. Chandrashekhar, popularly known as SNC, knew the geography of dance development in Karnataka. Even if he sounded 'harsh' several times, his opinion was valued because he knew what he wrote. I used to be terrified when I saw him in the front row during my performances, but words of praise too have had its rich value additions in my performances."
Says Manju Bhargavi, a Kuchipudi exponent, "I have lost a big fan, believe me, I used to be the happiest person when a strict and no-nonsense critic as him allotted the best marks to me in my performances. When I took part in his 90th birthday celebrations, he had said "I cant forget your "Patra Lekhana" in Bhama Kalaapam, your abhinaya stays in my eyes." I saw him last at my students' Rangapravesha on December 13, and after the programme he said that the items bore my signature stamp on it. We dancers will badly miss him."
Says Bharatanatyam dancer, Poornima Gururaja, "I am benefited from his guidance for the last 35 years. He was a "living history" of dance who was a practitioner for 70 years, so his honest knowledgeable feedback meant the world to us. To SNC, art was bigger than the artiste, and so he sat through an entire performance and this honesty is what is synonymous to Chandrashekar's reviews. There are two things I will carry with me about him life long. One is, we were aghast that at the Kala Sindhu Seminar on Abhinaya, his volumes on the subject for two hours were without a single paper in front of him. Two, just a few years ago he could recollect to Yamini Krishnamurthy the exact lines that he had written for her in 1972!"