Tamizhikkum Sanjayendru Per
For sometime now, one of our best Carnatic musicians Sanjay Subrahmanyan has this exclusive Tamizh concert where he sings only Tamizh compositions. It’s a fitting tribute to this city which has nurtured Carnatic Music and all those marvellous compositions by several well known & lesser known Tamizh poets waiting to be exhibited.
Sanjay had sung on a similar format for Shubhashree Thanikachalam’s ‘Marghazhi Maha Utsavam’ for about 18 years (which was acknowledged by him in the brochure). Later he decided to fly solo and the program ‘Tamizhum Nanum’ was conceived and to be held during the first week of December. Smart thinking because in Marghazhi Maha Utsavam he would have been a part of a series of programs. But here with Tamizhum Naanum ..... He is the program!
This year it was on both 7th & 8th December and I was there to attend it on 8th.
As usual there was anticipatory excitement inside Music Academy and people were there well ahead of time to find their highly priced seating. On the seat, we found a three fold brochure, in Sanjay’s own words both in English & Tamizh explaining his personal involvement with Tamizh music, and also the listing the details of the songs he was going to sing that evening. It was good to have both the languages on the brochure, after all you cannot have an all Tamizh program and have the brochure completely in English ! The list of songs for the evening made us relax and sit back to enjoy the concert since it saved us the labour of trying to guess the composer, ragam etc.
First he sang the Vaishnavite prayer ‘Pallandu, Pallandu’ in a different and interesting manner. Whether hardcore Vaishnavites like Velukudi Krishnan, Karunakarachiar and Dushyant Sridhar will approve is another matter. Then he went on to sing in his own inimitable manner. The first two songs were unknown to me. I attribute my limited knowledge of Tamizh compositions to my childhood being in Bangalore. But this didn’t bother me, after all I had the brochure safely in my bag. Only after these two songs did I verify and find out that neither of them was listed in the brochure. I realised that it was ‘out of syllabus’ and there was no point in me sitting there smugly holding the leaked out answer sheet!
As per the list, he sang Tiger Varadachariyar’s Tamizh Varnam in Ragam Begada ‘Sariyo Nee Thamadam Seyyum’ where he ventured to use his creativity to please the rasikas. His expose of this ragam was full of highly energised phrases touching the various nuances of the ragam.
Sanjay moved on to sing Dhandapani Desikgar’s ‘Kadavule Marakadhai’ in Ragam Thandavam, which was again mentioned in the list. The name of this ragam could not have been more appropriate, as Sanjay literally did a ‘thandavam’ with the song. It was a scintillating experience sitting there watching him sing with utmost perfection. He was playing with swaras with confidence and aplomb.
Sanjay went on to sing Koteeshwara Iyer’s ‘Velum Mayilum’ in Ragam Sucharitra. He used this single phrase in a countless variety of sangathis. It reminded me of the song in Mani Ratnam’s film ‘Katru Veliyade’. The whole song goes on and on with the lyrics ‘Vaan Varuvan Varuvan’....or so it seems, to the extent the singers Shashaa Tirupati & Rahman sound like a stuck gramophone record. Probably at that point or time the lyricist Vairamuthu was stuck too for different reasons !! In the above song, after a point one gets tired of the repetition but in this case Sanjay was impeccable in his rendition of the sangathis that he took the audience along to a high peak. There was a flawless logical progression that encompassed the composition aspect of the krithi.
Then came Gopalakrishnan Bharati’s ‘Undan Thiruvadi Saranam Endru Inga Nambi Vanden Deva’ in Kamboji. In this song, the poet says that he is poor and has no one. He has taken refuge under the feet of Lord Shiva the master and he pleads with the Dancing God of the Golden Temple of Chidambaram to remove his suffering.
I needed to share the meaning to elicit the emotion or Bhava. Needless to say, Sanjay’s singing is very brilliant but for songs such as these, it would be appealing if it’s sung less aggressively......it doesn’t match with the sentiment behind the lyrics!
Similarly, the next song was one of my favourites from Arunachala Kavi’s ‘Ramanatakam’ which in my opinion is more understandable and relatable than Kambar’s Ramayana. Particularly I find ‘Yaaro Ivar Yaaro’ in Bhairavi Ragam from the same Ramanatakam so very romantic as it describes love at first sight! Also so many layers of emotions in ‘Ramanikku Manan Mudi’ in Ragam Hindolam making the entire Ramanatakam a masterpiece. Here in this song ‘Eppadi Thunidhadho Manam Swami’ in Ragam Huesini, it’s Sita who chides Rama as to how he has the heart to say that he will go to the forest without her. She is not stopping him from going but is upset that he didn’t include her in the decision making or the excursion, sorry exile! A woman who had her way in the end ... Isn’t it Women Empowerment?
This song requires to show how Sita made Rama go on a ‘guilt trip’ for not keeping her included and she used an endearing method rather than argue or throw a tantrum. The tone is one of love, where Sita is trying to use mind games not the scolding method. Well.... I am but an emotional person, so to expect the appropriate tone to the sentiment of the song is legitimate expectation.
Sanjay next chose to sing Bharatidasan’s composition ‘Thunbam Nergaiyil’ in Ragam Desh. Sanjay has mentioned in the brochure that it happens to be one of his favourite ragams. So what if I cannot sing like him, I have something in common with him and that is Desh Ragam happens to be one of my favourites too. Even AR Rahman has used Desh for the humming part of the popular ’Kadhal Rojave’ from the Mani Ratnam film ‘Roja’. The original Vandematram song was tuned in Desh and of course later it went through many tunes and many controversies ! Sanjay was simply wonderful in the way he handled Desh.
His RTP was a king sized platter of ragams, some of them being Shubapanturvarali, Behaag, Shivaranjani m, Sahana and Kadankuthuhulam, not necessarily in that order ... after all it’s a week since this program happened and I may have it all mixed up ! It was very enjoyable and his Pallavi was a Thirukural ‘Kuzhal Inidhu Yazhinidhum Enpadam Makkal Mazhalaichchol Kelaathavar’. What Thiruvalluvar said in two lines, Sanjay took 25 minutes to sing in different ways!
If someone thinks this post is long that is partly because his concert was also very long and went beyond the expected time. This is one concert where people didn’t want to go anywhere during the Thani Avartanam. He concluded the concert with Bharatiyaar’s ‘Kaani Nilam Vendum’ as a Ragamalika, by which time most of us had reached a saturation point.
He had done everything possible and everything impossible too ! Like his singing ‘Tu Tu Tu Tu’ or whatever is now an accepted thing as much the fact that he wears the crown firmly on his head ! Or maybe it’s the crown on the head which assures acceptance?
I am sure ‘Tamizhum Naanum’ is here to stay and will create the required interest in Tamil compositions and indeed people are responding well. They are able to better relate to songs in the language they grew up with ..... do I sound like Suhasini in the K. Balachander’s film ‘Sindhu Bhairavi’ ???
About the Author:
Sandhya Shankar belongs to a well respected business family in Chennai. She is a Life Skills & Corporate Trainer by profession. She is an avid reader and a natural writer, who has written several poems and articles. She even presented her poems as a reading at the British council. She has keen interest in all art forms and has explored many different forms of painting like stained glass and Tanjore being among them.
Music being her first passion, she had her formal training under Terakotti Chandrasekharaiah at Bangalore and later briefly under Mrs Champa Kumar. She is a regular visitor of concerts, theatre and other live performances. Her witty reviews have gained a loyal and interactive readership for their sound technical commentary and relevance for every kind of melophile, from the casual-goer to the ragam expert, frequenting Chennai’s rich music scene.
(*The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of Music of Madras.)