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Individual Issues

Madras Season: Its Genesis
Issue : 255
Published on : December, 2005



3 Sruti Box

9 News & Notes

19 Heritage Landmarks In Music

25 Main Feature

41 Opinion Column

67 Obituary

68 Editor's Note

Front Cover: P.R. Thilagam (Photo by Sriram.V)

Main Feature
P.R. Thilagam

The child was not born in the most auspicious of circumstances. The anti nautch movement hung like a pall over the cool Madras air of December 1926. The mother, the outstandingly beautiful Parvatavardhani was all of sixteen and it was expected to be a difficult delivery. The child's grandmother, Kamalam, of the famed Kondi Paramparai (see box) of Tiruvarur had not reconciled herself to her daughter's love marriage. She had had great expectations from her daughter and was trying to come to terms with the girl's independence. Parvatavardhani had been learning music from Simizhi Sundaram Iyer and so had the handsome young man from Kerala, Paramasivam. An admiration for, and great skill in singing, Ramalinga Swamigal's arutpa-s, had brought Parvatavardhani and Paramasivam together and Kamalam though disappointed had to give in. The girl had also broken tradition, for she had chosen her companion before her formal dedication to Tyagaraja, the patron deity of Tiruvarur, to whom all the members of the Kondi Paramparai belonged. Shortly afterwards, Parvatavardhani became pregnant.

Kamalam's sister Meenakshisundaram Ammal decided to move the expecting mother to Madras closer to the date of delivery in order to ensure the best medical attention. The renowned Dr. Rangachari was pressed into service.

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The 'Madras' Music Season: Its Genesis

Why or how did the Music Season of Madras come about is an interesting question that has its answer in preindependent India, the various castes and communities that made up Madras presidency, and the gradual expansion of what was once a no man's strip of land on the Coromandel into a metropolis.

Sabha-s are not a recent phenomenon in the city. From 1870 onwards the city could boast of organisations such as the Sri Krishna Gana Sabha (not the present one), Tondaimandalam Sabha, which used to operate from the Tondaimandalam School on Mint Street and the Muthialpet Sabha which operated from Everest Lodge near Central Station. There were sabha-s that specialised only in Harikatha such as the Sarada Sangeetha Sabha, the Bhakti Marga Prasanga Sabha that was set up in 1895 solely to organise performances by Tanjavur Krishna Bhagavatar and the Madras Bhagavat Katha Prasanga Sabha. The Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha that came up in 1900 and is the sole survivor from that period was also a Harikatha dominated sabha in its early years. Such sabha-s held programmes right through the year and there was nothing special about the month of December as far as they were concerned.

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A VIEW FROM THE TOP OF SUBBUDU'S LIFE AND WORK -LEELA VENKATARAMAN On August 17th at the IIC Annexe, a book release function organised under the auspices of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and Appan (Asia-Pacific Performing Arts Network), unlike many other similar occasions, took on a specially nostalgic aura. The book in question Beyond Destiny by Lada Gurudev Singh is on the life and work of the Pitamaha of dance and music criticism, namely Subbudu. Critics, as I mentioned in my talk, write but seldom get written about. And this occasion was celebrating the youngest entrant into the field of dance-writing looking critically at the life and work of the oldest and most haloed of critics. If the courage of youth in stepping into an area where angels would fear to tread evoked admiration, not less praiseworthy was the large heartedness of a haloed senior like Subbudu submitting his life and work to the scrutiny of one so young. Turned out in a beautifully starched dhoti and angavastram, a frail looking Subbudu arrived in a wheelchair surrounded by a concerned and loving family.

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