If there is ever a combination of good humour, incredible scholarship and achievements, Lakshmi Viswanathan has all this and more. Not many words can describe what she is to the world of dance. It is not a matter of telling her story and her journey; it is about the atoms, protons and the cells that make up such a vivid, vibrant and a never-say-die attitude that make Lakshmi Viswanathan such an invaluable asset to the classical world. Lakshmi Viswanathan, with her usual dollop of amusement and laughter, at the vagaries of life, brings to this forum her experiences to keep us in awe of all that she has done through these years. As a leading exponent of Bharatanatyam, she has often been described as a ‘poetic dancer’ and a ‘dancer’s dancer’.
It is not easy to encapsulate 89 years of a life encompassing music and literature in a single article. Veteran Rajeev Taranath is today one of the world’s leading exponents of the sarod. The maestro’s life is so intertwined with three stalwarts of the Maihar Gharana—Ali Akbar Khan, Annapurna Devi and Ravi Shankar—that if one does not provide them with enough coverage, one would be remiss. They also provide the dramatic twists and turns in his life, of which there are several and are quite extraordinary. Rajeev was born in Bangalore on 17 October 1932. His father Pandit Taranath was deeply interested in music despite not being a professional musician. Through his father’s efforts, he was exposed to Indian classical music of the stalwarts of the day at an early age. He also began to learn vocal music. He gave his first public vocal performance at the age of ten and performed for the All India Radio before he was twenty.
Kathakali is no more a lingering patriarchy at Kerala Kalamandalam as the first batch of eight girls admitted for the full-time professional Kathakali course soon begin their training. The decision is historical. In its 90-years chronicle, Kerala Kalamandalam has decided to admit girls for a full-time Kathakali acting course. At this seminal art academy of the State, admission for the fair sex to take up Kathakali was restricted to tailored short-term training that varied from a month to a couple of years. While a reasonably fair number of art enthusiasts from abroad made use of this, the institution was obtuse in admitting girls from its State. The reason could be that Kathakali is predominantly considered a highly masculine style; even the female roles are men’s metier.
It was a Vijayadasami day in 1983. My Sanskrit Professor C.S. Sundaram took me to the home of vidwan B. Krishnamoorthy—fondly addressed as BK Sir—(hereafter BK) as he wished me to learn Dikshitar kritis from BK. I am grateful to Professor Sundaram, who was my well-wisher and supportive of my music career. I was studying B.A. Music at the University of Madras, and had never met BK Sir prior to this meeting. My emotions were?varied—combining anxiety and excitement as my musical background was limited. However, I could reproduce complex phrases or sangatis in Carnatic and film music. Professor Sundaram and I entered BK Sir’s home. He invited us into the hall, and asked me about my sruti which was “rendu kattai” (D sruti).
CONTENTS Vol. 28 Issue 12 December 2021
6 Sruti box
8 News & notes
14 Birthday calendar
16 Lakshmi Viswanathan
36 Rajeev Taranath
52 Heritage sthalams - Tamra sabha in Tirunelveli
54 Analysis - Music in Vaishnavite Tamil literature
58 Spotlight - Women enrol full-time in Kathakali
62 Tribute - B. Krishnamoorthy
66 From the Editor
Cover: Rajeev Taranath (photo by Anthony Peres)
Lakshmi Viswanathan (photo by Santhosh Janardhanan)