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Individual Issues

U. Shrinivas
Issue : 361
Published on : October, 2014



2 Sruti Box

6 News & Notes

13 A tribute to U. Shrinivas

16 Birthday calendar

19 Maya Rao

26 Alamelu Mani

32 Raga Bhairavi

37 Great masters of Indian music

40 Teaching and learning Bharatanatyam

44 From the wings

47 The harmonium in classical music

50 Interview

52 News & Notes (continued)

56 Kalavanta awards

58 Bookshelf

61 Treating cinema with disdain

64 From the Editor

Front Cover:  U. Shrinivas   (Photo: Akira Io)

BOY WONDER ALL HIS LIFE - Was his best yet to come?

Much loved, much adored Mandolin U. Shrinivas, who remained a boy wonder all his life, is no more. He was a frail, shy teenager when he appeared on the cover of Sruti’s inaugural issue in October 1983, along with D.K. Pattammal, Lakshmi Viswanathan and Sonal Mansingh. Founder-editor N Pattabhi Raman concluded his profile of the child prodigy with the passage: “Meteors are transient; they describe a fiery streak in the sky and then burn themselves out. Stars stay with us, adding sparkle to our life. It is the hope of almost everyone who has been exposed to the luminosity of Srinivas’s music (that is how he spelt his name then) that he will turn out to be a star on the firmament of South Indian classical music.”

There are those that believe Shrinivas had accomplished so much in his brief sojourn on earth, that it should not matter that he was snatched away in his prime just as Srinivasa Ramanujan and Subramania Bharati were. It is hard to agree with such a sentiment. At 45, he had many years of glorious creativity ahead of him, his music poised for a greatness beyond what he offered the world over the last three decades. The way he approached ragas, his new interpretations of them in recent years, suggested that the best of Mandolin Shrinivas was yet to come.

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MAYA RAO - Queen of choreography

Date: 8 Aug 2014, Venue: Chowdiah Memorial Hall. Ace choreographer guru Maya Rao was greeted with a standing ovation, as she stepped on to the proscenium at the conclusion of her last production, Kathak through the Ages. This production was a long cherished dream of Maya Rao, in which she visualised the vibrant dance form of Kathak, from its origin in the temples of Rajasthan and north India, through its suppression and revival in the courts of the Rajput kings, Mughal emperors Akbar and Jahangir, and the Nawab of Awadh Wajid Ali Shah, to its present technically evolved form.

Fondly called “Maya Didi” by her younger admirers and disciples, Maya Rao was a personification of simplicity, grace and humility. This was evident when she aknowledged the appreciation of the audience by giving all the credit to the “great masters of Kathak who passsionately treasured and practised the art”. This included her revered gurus Shambhu Maharaj of the Lucknow gharana and Sundar Prasadji of the Jaipur gharana.

Maya Didi projected the bhakti and abhinaya aspect of Kathak using thumris and dhrupad as propagated by revered Bindadin Maharaj and Shambhu Maharaj, along with technical excellence in her latest production.

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‘Teaching was the best way to stay active in music’

The Music Academy, Chennai, chose a senior guru from Mumbai for the second consecutive year for the Sangita Kala Acharya award. The recipient of the award in 2014 – Alamelu Mani, has dedicated her life to teaching Carnatic music in the heart of the city for the past fifty years. Hundreds of students have passed out of the portals of the South Indian School of Music that her late husband and guru H.A.S. Mani Bhagavatar started (in 1947). Losing her husband at a very young age, Alamelu Mani has upheld the high standards set by him in imparting music.

Her quiet and dignified demeanour belies the inner strength with which she faced hurdles as a single parent bringing up a young son. She speaks with self-assurance, with a touch of humility, in a soft voice that reflects the style of music she represents.

Tell us about the early years when you started teaching.

I assisted my husband Sri Mani at the South Indian School of Music founded by him from 1961. The full responsibility fell on my shoulders when he passed away in 1963. I was 28 and my son Ravi (singer Hariharan) was just eight.

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SRI SARASWATHY GANA NILAYAM - “It has been my life and soul”

Your association with the growth of Sri Saraswathy Gana Nilayam?

Saraswathi Gana Nilayam (SGN) was started by my guru K. Lalitha in 1939. One of the oldest dance schools in Chennai, having completed 75 years, has been my life and soul. My growth was marked by the growth of the institution. I took charge as Director of the institution in its 50th year. My teacher instilled in me a love for the arts. She ensured that I not only excelled in dance, but learnt nattuvangam, vocal music, veena, and violin. She also inspired me to do Harikatha. I owe all my success and prosperity to my guru Lalitha and the Nilayam.

As the ‘first student’ of SGN can you recall your first performance?

I feel rejuvenated even as I recall those days. I started learning Bharatanatyam from my athai K. Lalitha at the age of five and had  my arangetram when I was 11 years old. An ardent fan of Rukmini Devi, athai was very particular that she must preside over my debut. Rukmini Amma also readily accepted and graced the occasion. It was one of the best moments of my life when Rukmini Amma fondly made me sit on her lap.

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