SITARA DEVI - Queen of Kathak
While browsing through the SAMUDRI archives of the Sruti Foundation, we found very interesting material on the late Kathak exponent Sitara Devi. She had given a very extensive interview to Sruti correspondent VIMALA SARMA in Mumbai in the 1990s. It is a pity that both the interviewer and SITARA DEVI are no more. Sitara Devi passed away on 25 November 2014; Vimala Sarma died some years earlier.
Sukhdev Maharaj of Banaras married early in the fashion of his time. On a visit to the royal court of Nepal he met and married Matsya Kumari. She was “the Rajguru’s daughter” according to Sunil Kothari, “of royal blood” according to Sitara Devi. In the fashion of his times too, Sukhdev had a large family of three daughters – Alaknanda (died 1984), Tara and Dhanalakshmi; and three sons Kishen Maharaj (died early), Chaubey Maharaj (died 1992), and Durga Prasad. All the children were trained in the arts by Sukhdev himself. Chaubey Maharaj later became a dancer and dance teacher in Bombay; Durga Prasad became a well known pakhawaj player and teacher in Banaras. Alaknanda was a beauty and together with Tara was personally groomed by Sukhdev in Kathanatyam. Alaknanda and Tara were the first women from the Kathaka families to dance in public.
The third daughter was born on Dhanatrayodasi day and was christened Dhanalakshmi. Known generally as Dhanno, she was considered ugly. Sitara Devi, as she became known later, would often point out how different she looked from her sister Tara. “I have taken after my Nepali mother,” she says pointing to her high cheek bones and slightly upward slanting eyes. She was considered ugly and unfit for a dance career and slated for early marriage. Her father arranged a match for her with a 21-year old, oily haired groom (tel-wallah as Sitara described him).
At home in different genres of music
HARIHARAN IN CONVERSATION WITH GAYATHRI SUNDARESAN
Singer Hariharan, of the gifted voice, with a large fan following throughout the country, is versatile in classical (Hindustani and Carnatic), ghazal, fusion and film music. He talks to Sruti about his unusual musical journey that took him from a strictly traditional Carnatic music household, to discovering his own path encompassing a wider range of pan-Indian and
Today you are a widely known and loved musician in the country, equally comfortable in many styles spanning many languages. Tell us about how you came into the field.
There was always music at home. Our house in Sion was quite small, typical of the apartments in Bombay those days. A small hall that became the bedroom at night, and a kitchen and the luxury of a balcony! Most of my uncles and aunts were well versed in music. When everyone in the family sings, you just have to sing!
When my father H.A.S. Mani Bhagavatar was alive, there would be music going on, or talk on music, or a musician would have visited, you know, a very active household, never a dull moment.
D.K. JAYARAMAN - The multi-faceted musician
29 July is the birthday of Sangita Kalanidhi D.K. Jayaraman (DKJ) – an extraordinary musician who was not only my brother Vijay Siva’s guru but also our family’s guru.
DKJ’s music was deeply rooted in sampradaya, rich in Carnatic flavour. Bhava was his forte. His style of singing simple, pure and chaste, appealed to the connoisseur and the common man. His raga alapana, niraval and kalpanaswaram were pleasantly precise and crisp. They captured the full essence of the raga and his emotive style of singing kritis was a sheer delight to rasikas.
His control over layam was amazing. Layam is not just tala or mathematics but a force which can be only felt
and not seen. The perfect example is that of the planets revolving around the sun, governed by a divine force that cannot be seen but directs their movements.
S. GOPALAN - The one and only Gopulu
When Gopulu’s friends called him a cartoonist, he corrected them saying he was an ‘artoonist’. He was good not only at cartoons, but also illustrations for both fiction and non-fiction and did even oil paintings when he was on a holiday to the U.S. On the spacious walls of his son’s residence in Rochester, Gopulu’s paintings of Kutrala Kuravanji, Raja Raja Chola watching the edifice of the Brihadeeswara temple, the raga Kalyani in a beautiful feminine form, Radha and Krishna under the shade of a tree, and more are prominently displayed.
S. Gopalan was born on 18 June 1924 in Tanjavur. A student of the College of Arts and Crafts, Kumbakonam, Gopulu was noticed by Mali – another great artist of Tamil Nadu, who asked him to join the Tamil Weekly, Ananda Vikatan, in the 1940s. Gopulu left Ananda Vikatan in 1963, when well-known artist Bapu asked him to join Efficient Publicities, an advertising agency. Later, Gopulu moved to F.D. Stewarts as art director. Eventually, he founded his own advertising agency Adwave. His calendars for TVS-Madurai and Lakshmi Mills-Coimbatore, were actually pieces of high quality art. When Shriram Chits was started, Gopulu designed its logo. The logos for the Tamil weekly Kungumam and Sun TV were also designed by Gopulu. He passed away on 29 April 2015 at Chennai.