Vyjayantimala Bali, the veteran Bharatanatyam dancer who turned 84 in August 2018, continues to rule the hearts of her rasikas with her unalloyed performances marked by dignity, subtlety and bhakti towards the dance form and the almighty. 2018 was a milestone in her life as she completed 75 years in the field of classical dance. A special event was organised on 26 October 2018 at the Sathguru Gnanananda Hall in Chennai to celebrate this beautiful dancer and her amazing artistry. What began as a personal conversation with the living legend of Bharatanatyam Vyjayantimala Bali, culminated in a memorable event. I spontaneously coined the name Anantam... Aanandam—the eternal blissful journey, and the veteran simply loved it. This happened on 19 March 2018 and I dedicated it to the timeless beauty of Vyjayantimala’s artistry—a lovely journey over 75 precious years. At 84, Vyjayantimala’s Bharatanatyam is still the same—pristine, pure Tanjavur Kittappa bani with all its nuances and perfection.
15 December 2018. The inaugural ceremony of the 92nd annual conference and concerts of the Music Academy, Chennai, began on an auspicious note with a paean to Sankara, the embodiment of nada—Nadatanumanisam Sankaram a composition of Tyagaraja in Chittaranjani, sung by the students of the Academy’s Advanced School of Carnatic Music. N. Murali, President of the Academy, introduced the chief guest Indra Nooyi, Chairperson, PepsiCo, USA, tracing her journey from Chennai to becoming one of the most powerful women in the corporate world. He also announced the names of all the major awardees to be honoured during the Academy’s sadas on 1 January 2019. It was interesting to watch the formality of Sangita Kalanidhi Sanjay Subrahmanyan proposing the name of Aruna Sairam to receive the Sangita Kalanidhi birudu this time, which was seconded by another Sangita Kalanidhi A. Kanyakumari.
Two talented young Hindustani musicians—vocalist Debapriya Adhikary and sitarist Samanwaya Sarkar, disciples of veteran Hindustani vocalist Girija Devi—had an innate desire to share all they learnt at the feet of their guru. They had gained insights into the working of her mind, her capacity for visualisation and imagery and the intense philosophical aspects which are the life and soul of her music. Their Guruma, a genius for thematic development, had imparted to them the formal design of her music which they had not experienced or learnt before. They illustrate this subtlety with the song Tadpu jaise jal bin machhliya where tadpu or tadap (suffering, pining) can be for the beloved or the Divine, illustrating every word with musical expressions. It is a “do maney” (double entendre) piece typical of the Benares gharana. The two youngsters wanted music lovers to know of it but wondered how they would communicate all this to the world—until they made a film on her.
Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha of Triplicane is the oldest sabha in Chennai. The records of the sabha reveal that it was launched in 1896 by Manni Tirumalachariar, a prominent resident of Triplicane, to foster the performing arts. It was then known as the Sangita Vidwat Sabhai. When the organisation was officially registered in 1900, the organisers sought the blessings of Sri Parthasarathy Swami—the presiding deity of the temple in Tiruvallikeni—and hence the sabha was named after the Lord. It is said that this was the first sabha where the public came forward and participated in its activities. The Parthasarathy Swami Sabha has played host to several music legends in its nearly 120 year-old history.
6 Sruti Box
8 News & Notes
14 Birthday calendar
16 Vyjayantimala Bali
v Celebrating 75 years in Bharatanatyam
22 Aruna Sairam (part 2)
32 Organisations v Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha
38 Season 2018-19 v Festival apps
40 Spotlight v Girija—a lifetime in music
45 First person
v A conscientious teacher—and other stories
48 News & Notes (continued)
52 Young voices v Keerthana Sankar
54 From the Editor
Front Cover: Vyjayantimala Bali
Colour photo by Yoga, b/w (L-2) by Avinash Pasricha