True-blue Kalakshetra

A doyen of Carnatic music, D. Pasupathi had lived a full life dedicated to singing and teaching of pristine music. As Professor and Principal of the Tirupati Venkateswara College of Music, he contributed to the development of the college and popularising Annamacharya compositions not only throughout Andha Pradesh, but globally.

An unassuming and loveable personality, simple and humble, Pasupathi was highly respected by his students and people in the Tirupati township.

A man of few words, his music vocabulary was immense. A graduate of Kalakshetra, Pasupathi was hand picked by Doraiswamy Iyer one of Rukmini Devi’s close confidants from Vandavasi, a village in Tamil Nadu. He joined Kalakshetra in 1944, as a teenager with chubby cheeks and a ringing voice, which captivated the Adyar residents. He was lucky to study under stalwarts such as Tiger Varadachari, Bhudalur Krishnamurthi Sastri, Papanasam Sivan and then from 1953 onwards Mysore Vasudevachar in the Adyar theosophical campus, where Kalakshetra was functioning then. An uninhibited singer, he would sing and hum ragas on his way to the classes from his hostel room and in the quiet atmosphere of Kalakshetra, his voice carried. In fact, we as younger wards in the hostel, learned much music from his full-throat singing throughout the day, be it in a class room or as he walked around the campus.

Pasupathi was trained to accompany Rukmini Devi’s Bharatanatyam performances and he single-handedly managed singing and doing Nattuvangam with utmost efficiency, a rarity even in the traditional Nattuvanars. Many may not remember him performing the Kattiyakkaran in ‘Kutrala Kuravanji’ singing and dancing in the role of Indra, then conduct the whole dance-drama without even looking at the notes. Rukmini Devi never allowed musicians to have note-books in front. She insisted that they memorise the songs and rehearses umpteen times.

Tiger Varadachari’s music composition for Kalidasa’s ‘Kumaarasambhavam’ was complex, to say the least. Pasupathi’s performance as Indra and the way he conducted the dance-drama was, therefore, incredible. This was before he took up the post as Principal of Tirupati Venkateswara College of music. Of course Rukmini Devi was not so happy to let him leave the institution.

The composition of music for the Ramayana series of Kalakshetra started with Pasupati sir learning and notating them directly from Mysore Vasudevachar. While he did so both myself and my colleague Balagopal had the good fortune of playing the tambura for those music sessions, which was a great way to imbibe knowledge. We had the privilege of playing the tambura for his music concerts in the city’s cultural forums and wedding receptions several times.

Cherished moments

When Pasupathi sir won the Music Academy’s much coveted Tambura Prize in 1954 (if I am correct), competing with stalwarts such as Sirkazhi Govindarajan, it was an exciting moment for all of us at Kalakshetra. Another great moment I cherish was when I persuaded Lalgudi Jayaraman to accompany Pasupathi Sir for a Bahulapanchami concert at Kalakshetra organised by the students’ union. This incident is recorded in the minutes book of Jayaraman, who showed it to me a few days before his demise.

After his retirement from Sri Tirupati Venkateswara College of Music, he joined Kalakshetra as Vice-Principal and served couple of years composing music for dance drama productions. During that period he composed music for our ‘Tirukkural Bharatam,’ and Bharatakalanjali honoured him with the title, Sangita Kala Bhaskara.

He was the recipient of several coveted awards and honours, including the Central Sangeeta Natak Academy Puraskar and Sangeeta Kala Acharya honour from The Madras Music Academy. He is the Asthana Vidwan of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam.

In the passing away of Prof. Pasupathi, the Carnatic music field has lost a great Vidwan and fine human being, whose memory will be cherished by connoisseurs of chaste Carnatic music and thousands of students, who loved him for his generosity in parting with knowledge.

Prof. Pasupathi is survived by daughter Sangeeta Ganesh (Kalakshetra Bharatanatyam graduate, who lives in the U.S. with her husband Ganesh Rao and daughter Netra) and son Srivatsa employed in a corporate sector.

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