Showing posts from June, 2012

The King and the Dancer

Swati Tirunal, Irvivarman Thampi, Sugandhavalli ,Vadivelu, Bharatnatyam, and Mohinitattam – The fascinating connections

You may have seen a sensuous Mohiniattam by the dancer in the traditional Kerala whites and you would have seen may others in Malayalam movies and sometimes bits in a Hindi movie like dil se..but how did mohiniyattam get formulated? What has Maharaja Swati Tirunal got to do with it? What role did Violin maestro Vadivelu play in the drama and who indeed was Sugandhavalli? Those who have seen the movie Swati Tirunal would have an inkling about the tempestuous days of the young king, in fact his last happy and sad years, but let us try and take another look, for it is a story of persons, and of their simple desires in life, a story of dance, music and love and as we all know, these have a habit of coexistence, and is the formula in many a heartwarming story.

Before we get to Travancore and delve into this story, I have to start in Tanjavur, going back to a time of the r…

The Story of Babul Mora

The other day we all listened to a sonorous recital of the famed ‘Babul Mora’ in the Saigal style by our good friend Subash, during our music Samaroh session. As I had the responsibility to introduce the song, I did a little digging and come up with the brief background. The song took us back many decades, and as we watched the emotions play on Subash’s face and the mournful words came out of his mouth all the watching eyes and faces were rapt in attention. The song played over and over in my mind for a long time since then, taking me back to memories of many more favorites by Saigal and Mukesh. Many others have written about this story, but well, I thought, I will provide it some more depth and make an article of it.
I used to visit Lucknow often in the mid 80’s. At that time, I was neither interested in history nor did I have the slightest interest in Nawabs or kebabs. But I loved to stay at the not so popular hotel called Hotel Carlton which was a converted palace, somewhat musty an…

Omana Thingal Kidavo

തമ്പിമാമന്‍ടെ താരാട്ട് - Uncle Iravivarman Thampi’s Royal Lullaby
One could go north or south in Kerala, through the various regions, where they talk different dialects, think somewhat differently even, where the Malabar aristocrat sometimes subtly expresses his mistrust of the Travancore person or vice versa, where even the food habits and spoken dialects change with the terrain, but there is one thing they will all agree to, that the ‘Malayalee standard’ lullaby is Omana Thinkal Kidavo penned by the illustrious Irayimman Thampi for his young nephew Swati Tirunal Rama Varma. Most children would have grown up listening to someone in the house humming this song, for it is a dear memory in many a Malayalees childhood. It was a desire to sing it for our recent Samaroha that made us check the background in detail.
As I checked, I came across quite a few versions and at least 12 or so recordings, done in the raga’s Hindolam, Arabhi, Nellambari, Kurinji, Kanada, Sankarabharam or even the Hind…

Cleveland, Tyagaraja and Govinda

It had been a while since our last travel and so when an opportunity came to do something a little different, we thought it a good idea. This time it was to attend the Tyagaraja festival at Cleveland Ohio where our niece was going to perform in one of the Carnatic music competitions and partake in some other sectionms of the festival. Pt Ravi Shankar was to perform and get felicitated on one of the evenings and Dr Balamurali Krishna was to perform, but before we set out, we learnt that Ravi Shankar had taken ill and been advised not to travel. Not that it was going to dampen our spirits, for getting together with our cousins and their families were more the core theme of the visit and in any case there were other things to do…
And thus, soon enough, we were in the place popular for Carnatic music in US, Cleveland. Soon we got to know about the stalwarts behind the well conducted annual festival, people like Cleveland Sundaram who founded the event. Sundaramama is a dynamic guy, no doub…