COVER STORY PARASSALA B. PONNAMMAL: A GEM OF PUREST RAY SERENE
Padma Shri awardee Parassala B. Ponnammal, the nonagenarian vidushi, has been leading a simple life in her modest house in Valisasala Street in Trivandrum after retirement, teaching music to senior aspirants of music and spending time with her family. Till her satabhishekam, she never dreamt of attaining international recognition and honours nor did she ever clamour for fame or wealth. Having acquired the great treasure of unadulterated music from great gurus like Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar, her only way of life had been to present chaste Carnatic music in her concerts and to pass it on to the next generation of musicians. She had been faithfully following the words of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita and doing her duty without expectation of reward. Ponnammal’s life took a different turn after her 82nd birthday and had accolades and awards showering on her. (See Sruti 282,March 2008 for Interview).
B. Ponnammal was born to Bhagavati Ammal and Mahadeva Iyer on 29 November 1924 in Parassala—a municipal town, 34 kilometres from Trivandrum. She studied music and Sanskrit from a very young age from Paramu Pillai Bhagavatar and Ramaswamy Bhagavatar. It was a turning point of sorts, when the young Ponnammal participated in a music competition held to mark the birthday celebration of Sri Chithira Tirunal, the Maharaja of Travancore. Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer and a few other senior musicians were the judges and the young girl fearlessly sang Kamalambam bhajare in Kalyani with alapana, niraval and swarams.
COVER STORY KADRI GOPALNATH: ‘SAXOPHONE SAMRAT’
Born in Panemangalore, Karnataka, Kadri Gopalnath was initiated into music by his father Thaniappa, a nagaswaram vidwan, who taught him to play the instrument as a child. An adept at playing the nagaswaram, clarionet, trumpet and the saxophone, Gopalnath went on to hone his knowledge and skills in Carnatic music under the guidance of Gopalakrishna Iyer, Sangita Kalanidhi T.V. Gopalakrishnan, and Kumbakonam Balakrishna Pillai. Starting with a concert under the auspices of the Chembai Memorial Trust, Kadri Gopalnath has performed under the banner of major sabhas in south India, creating a place for the saxophone in the field of Carnatic music. He participated in the BBC Promenade concert in London, and has also played extensively at prestigious music festivals abroad like the Jazz Festival in Prague, Berlin Jazz Festival,
the Music Halle Festival in Paris and Saxophonia in Latvia—working closely with musicians of Europe. A large number of audio cassettes and CDs of his music—Carnatic and fusion—have been released over the years. With jazz flautist James Newton he recorded the Southern Brothers. Kadri Gopalnath has also played the saxophone in films.
Gopalnath is the recipient of several prestigious honours and awards including the Padma Shri from the Government of India, the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, the Kannada Rajyotsava Award from the Karnataka state government, Karnataka Kalashree from the Karnataka Sangeetha Nrithya Academy, the Puttaraj Gavai Award, Kalaimamani from the Tamil Nadu Eyal Isai Nataka Manram, and an honorary doctorate from the Bengaluru University.
BEHIND THE SCENES SAI VENKATESH: BUILDING A HEALTHY ECOSYSTEM FOR DANCE
Come first of the month and fans of Indian classical dance in Bengaluru make a beeline to Sai Nrityotsav, anticipating an uninterrupted couple of hours of dance. They are drawn to the festival for several reasons including their strict adherence to time, the diversity of artists and dance forms featured. But perhaps the most notable motivator is the event’s total focus on dance—there are no chief guests, commercial advertisements or rambling speeches to distract the audience.
Started eight years ago in Bengaluru, Sai Nrityotsav celebrated its 100th dance programme on 1 September 2017. What began modestly as a platform for young professional dancers, now has thousands of applicants vying to perform under this banner. The surprising part of the story is that this is a non-commercial event, with no sponsors or tickets. The organisers themselves sponsor the venue, marketing, stage and production management services. In return, the artists agree to perform for no remuneration other than a token of appreciation in the form of a shawl or flowers.
THEATRE REFLECTIONS ON THE INDIAN STAGE
AMAL ALLANA has been working as director and costume designer on the Hindi and English stage for the last four decades. A daughter of Ebrahim and Roshan Alkazi, she graduated from the National School of Drama in 1968. In 1969 she was awarded a scholarship to study Bertolt Brecht’s theatre in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). After that, she went to Japan to study Kabuki—the traditional theatre form. Important plays directed by her have been Adhe Adhure, Himmat Mai (Mother Courage), Begum Barve, Birjis Qadar ka Kunba, Sonata, NatiBinodini. Along with her husband Nissar, she founded the D.A.D.A (Dramatic Arts and Design Academy). She has been organising the annual Ibsen Festival in Delhi since 2008. She was twice the Director of the National School of Drama for eight years. It was during her tenure that the NSD’s first theatre festival ‘Tarangam’ was launched in 2009. A Sangeet Natak Akademi award winner (1998), Amal travels all over the world and has made major contributions in the display of Western art in India.