Flautist S Venkatarama Iyer was better known as Pallavi Venkatarama Iyer, a prefix that spoke of his intelligence at setting interesting Pallavi lines.
Born in Salem to Kuppammal and Subramaniam , he began to learn vocal music under Doraiswami Iyengar who came in the line of the famous musician Ramanathapuram Srinivasa Iyengar. It was much later, at the age of about 20, that he took up the flute, under the guidance of Salem Venupillai. Possesing a strong foundation in vocal music was helpful in understanding many concepts and he soon began to play at a professional level.
Although he did not take up playing the flute as a profession, he was admired by many musicians for his musical acumen and scholarship. Even top musicians such as Mali were fond of his thoughts and engaged in discussions with him. His in depth knowledge of laya concepts, ability to develop raga alapanas in a grand manner aided him in constructing Pallavi lines set in intricate talams. These he handled with great ease and executed to perfection. Pallavi Narasimhachariar referred to him as “Pallavi Venkatarama Iyer”, in recognition of his talent.
Venakatarama Iyer had the good fortune of learning with the Nadaswaram genius T N Rajaratnam Pillai, whom he admired greatly.
He was awarded `Kalaimamani' by the Tamil Nadu Government and `Acharya Choodamani' by Sri Krishna Gana Sabha. Ramani's Academy of flute honoured him for his contribution to music for more than five decades.
Many students have benefitted from his guidance, especially in the art of rendering Ragam Tanam Pallavis.