Well known actor, director, voice-over artist and chorister P.C. Ramakrishna turns 75 on 4 November 2020. Born in 1945 in Madras, he grew up in Calcutta where people have a partiality for vachika in any form. Ramakrishna’s mother Leela Sekhar was very keen on drama, and she wrote and directed several plays for the Ladies Theatre Group in Calcutta, both in Tamil and English. Hence PC was always drawn to the spoken word and theatre. The Jesuit priests in St. Xavier’s School recognised his interest and he was featured in all the annual school plays. His stepping stone was Charley’s Aunt, in which he played Charley in 1958. When he moved to Madras for higher studies, his involvement in theatre continued at Loyola College where he graduated in English Literature in 1966.
An original among the young vocalists in Carnatic music today, Abhishek Raghuram is a rare amalgam of enviable pedigree and prodigious talent, passion and perseverance, an innovative spirit springing from tradition. He hails from a family of celebrated musicians—renowned mridanga maestro Palghat Raghu was his paternal grandfather and the legendary violinist Lalgudi Jayaraman his maternal grand-uncle. Now 35 years old, Abhishek’s growing up years were seeped in listening to classical music; he learned both vocal music and mridangam under the doting supervision of Palghat Raghu. Though a leading vocalist, Abhishek also plays the khanjira and the mridangam and has accompanied several stalwarts. Known to be an unusually cerebral singer for one so young, Abhishek has been able to imbibe the intricacies of rhythm from his grandfather. Abhishek underwent training in vocal music from guru P.S. Narayanaswamy since 1994.
The early nineties saw an advent of inventions and trends such as the internet, cable television, online chat rooms, restaurant chains and the like. Amongst these sprawling developments, were two sisters, who hailed from Akkarai, a village in Suchindram to whom these didn’t matter! S. Subhalakshmi and S. Sornalatha – Akkarai Sisters as they are known, were solely focused on their practice. Their minds were occupied with only music and playing the violin. The seeds for such thoughts were sowed in their minds by their father and guru, Akkarai S. Swamynathan—who worked with the Indian Bank as manager, and is also a violinist and a relentless teacher. A musical family in the truest sense, their grandfather Suchindram S.P. Siva Subramaniam was a versatile musician, adept at singing and playing the violin, harmonium and mridangam. He was no mean composer either and his compositions are well-structured with several ornamentations like swarakshara, yatis and gatis.
It is over six decades since M.K. Tyagaraja Bhagavatar passed away on 1 November 1959. This article is a study of the music of M.K. Tyagaraja Bhagavatar in films, that has been appended in a Compact Disc, to the book titled MKT Bhagavatar - Isaiyum Vaazkkaiyum by D.V. Balakrishnan [published by Old Madras Press, Chennai 600028. Ph: (044) 24621139. December 2018. Rs. 499.] The CD contains 120 rare songs. In 2010, Suresh Balakrishnan, son of the author of the book under review, had written a book, Bagavather - His Life and Times, in English. It was reviewed in Sruti 310 (July 2010). D.V. Balakrishnan’s book is not just a Tamil version but has several valuable additional features. Before the first chapter, the author has thoughtfully placed a tribute to Tyagaraja Bhagavatar (MKT)—a ‘super-star’ in an era when the term had not been coined—written by star-actor turned politician M.G. Ramachandran (MGR), whose image continues to influence Tamil Nadu politics to this day. In his essay written with utmost modesty, MGR beautifully captures the ‘magnetic personality’ of MKT.