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Stress on sahitya

LALITHAA KRISHNAN

Prince Rama Varma’s voice has a pleasant timbre that acquires depth in the lower octave.

PHOTO: M. KARUNAKARAN

Clear diction: Prince Rama Varma

Prince Rama Varma commenced his vocal concert for Hamsadhwani with the pada varnam ‘Omkara Pranava’ (Shanmukhapriya) composed by his guru, M. Balamuralikrishna, in which the swarakshara embedded in the charanam ‘Pada NeerajamuleR 17; is emphasised through staccato articulation. The rendition highlighted the wealth of detail woven into the dhatu and matu.

Muthuswami Dikshitar’s ‘Pancha Mathanga Mukha Ganapathi’ (Malahari) afforded the opportunity to dwell on the plaintive notes of this raga. Lucid sarvalaghu with a sprinkling of apt poruthams lent a quiet glow to kalpanaswara, while the inclusion of the familiar ‘Lambodhara Lakumikara’ swara grid elicited approving nods. Given his penchant for exploring swarakshara possibilities, the vocalist signed off with a flourish at ‘Pa Ri Pa ... litoham’.

Upbeat mood

The mood changed, turning upbeat in ‘Raksha Maam Sharanaagatam’ (Nattai, Adi). The anupallavi had its share of arresting moments with a Srothovaha yati-structured sahitya enunciation followed by densely packed madhyama kala sahitya that trailed off to a dramatic halt at the shatsruthi rishabha in the tara sthayi. It was an unusual eduppu that the artist chose for the swarakalpana (3/4 on the last turn). The concluding swara sequence took pride of place, projecting Varma in his element in an elaborate round that featured vadi-samvadi key points. Interesting percussive permutations added lustre. Though the eduppu posed a challenge, the violinist responded with exuberance to achieve a sparkling finish.

Varma punctuated his presentation with interesting footnotes about each composition. He explained that a kriti by the Kannada composer known as ‘Meenakshi Sutan’ had been set to tune by Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar.

‘Janani Ninnu Vina’ (Ritigowla, Subbaraya Shastri) trod the path of tradition, coloured by whimsical overtones at ‘Vinave Na Manavini’. A sedate take off at the anupallavi line ‘Kanakangi Ramapathi’ led to a smooth ‘Nannu Kanna Thalli’ (Kesari, Tyagaraja).

Next came a rare offering — ‘Mayamma Shubhamimma’ (Ranjani, M.D. Ramanathan). The Sankarabharanam essay, the main and only alapana of the concert, unfolded with swaroopa affirming serenity. The raga’s facets were chiselled to reflect sowkhya rather than grandiose. A relaxed air pervaded the madhya sthayi delineation, a select round of brigas radiating from the tara sthayi shadja. The karvai at the tara sthayi gandhara with a moorchana swirl swooping right down to the mandra sthayi gandhara revealed a voice in fine form, while the instrumentalist’s spirit of enquiry (Varma is an accomplished vainika) surfaced in a few permutations that seemed a shade inconsistent with the vocabulary thus far in evidence. In the Swati Tirunal kriti ‘Devi Jagath Janani’, the niraval and swaras were kept simple and effective with variegated patterns enlivening the gandhara-centric kuraippu.

Varma’s voice has a pleasant timbre that acquires considerable depth and resonance in the lower octave. A highly commendable aspect of the artist’s approach was the importance accorded to sahitya, an oft neglected feature in today’s performing scenario. By ensuring accuracy and clarity in pronunciation, kalpita forms were handled with due respect for artha bhava.

M.A. Sundareswaran (violin) and Tiruchi Harikumar (mridangam) responded with alacrity to the vocalist’s statements, making for motivated teamwork that underscored a winning combination.

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