The indomitable Mrs. YGP
Rajalakshmi Parthasarathy is an exemplary woman with many talents. She has left her mark in journalism, theatre, social causes and restoration of temples, besides playing a pioneering role in education. The school she started, Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan (PSBB), has grown into a reputed group of institutions of higher secondary education in Chennai today. Her life is, however, a larger canvas beyond education, and her contribution to art and culture equal her promotion of the cause of education. She has been a quiet catalyst behind the outstanding achievements of many men and women she spotted and nurtured.
Rajalakshmi chose to bask in the shadow of her late husband Y.G. Parthasarathy, a passionate practitioner of Tamil theatre, popularly known as YGP. Many people know her therefore as Mrs. YGP without the least idea of her given name. A prominent vermilion mark on her forehead and hairline, sparkling eyes behind spectacles, a cheery, confident voice and her grit and energy bely her age. She was the first woman journalist to enter the portals of The Hindu, “the staid and sedate newspaper”, as her biographer Lakshmi Devnath puts it in A Class Apart, a biography of Mrs. YGP. She was just 25 when as Rashmi, she provided comfort to anxious women in an agony aunt column What Should I Do? in Sport & Pastime (1948 - 1967), a weekly of The Hindu. Donning another pseudonym ‘Jalak’, she wrote in Tamil for Kumudam and as ‘Sumangali’ for Swadesamitran. Women’s Corner was her column providing a rational slant to women’s issues. She also wrote on fashion trends, in Sport & Pastime, under the nom-de-plume Rashmi.
MOHAN HEMMADI - Hyderabad’s man for music
DEEPA TALGERY SHAILENDRA
Music is Mohan Hemmadi’s sraddhanjali to his Maker. I had heard about the distinguished gentleman for years before I finally met him this year. His name was often mentioned in music circles, whenever there was talk about a concert, be it a mega cultural event or a small Indian classical recital in Hyderabad. I had also heard stories about his relationships with international cricketers in the 1950s and how he had managed to get the Konkan railway line to the spiritual seat of the Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmins at Shirali.
Mohan Hemmadi’s life has, over the decades, created several magical memories for countless folk. An authority on music concerts, Hemmadi has touched generations of music aficionados in Hyderabad and has spent a lifetime, defining the cultural map of the twin cities.
SITARA DEVI - “I am a people’s artist”
Sruti correspondent VIMALA SARMA had interviewed Sitara Devi in 1992. Unfortunately, the interview and the article were not published then, and now artist and author are both no more. To right this wrong we published the article on Sitara Devi in the July issue of Sruti. Here are excerpts from the interview.
Tell us about the Banaras gharana. Was the Ram Leela an important influence on dance in Banaras?
The Banaras gharana has combined dance, Sanskrit and music since Raja Harischandra’s times. The Ram Leela dancers of Varanasi were abhinaya maestros. Their delineation of themes like the Vamana avatar, the 54 avatars of Vishnu (ten major and 44 minor), and Bharat Milap were unforgettable. The dancers have inherited a long tradition of drama, and where abhinaya is concerned, they have many lessons to teach dancers of all styles and persuasion.
R. Pichumani Iyer
P. VASANTH KUMAR
With the diminishing numbers of veena players in the Carnatic style in the country, the passing away of my Guru R. Pichumani Iyer has created another vacuum amongst vainikas. He was 96 years old. Having been under his tutelage for almost 17 years made me realise that it needs a higher level of musical taste to appreciate the greatness of the instrument. Never seeking opportunities to perform, he performed willingly when sabhas
and other institutions approached him for concerts.
Pichumani Iyer qualified as a Sangeeta Bhushanam from the Annamalai University, where he was groomed by the likes of Sangita Kalanidhi K.S. Narayanaswamy, Gomathi Sankara Iyer and others. His initial training was under one Kuppanna in Tiruchirapalli. A long stint with AVM Studios had him work with leading film music composers like M.S. Viswanathan, Viswanathan Ramamurthy and others. He eventually bid adieu to playing for films and devoted himself to the pursuit of Carnatic music. His numerous disciples include R. Visweswaran, Suresh Krishna, the Iyer Brothers based in Australia, B. Kannan, Vasantha Krishnamoorthy.