Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Sunday, Jul 01, 2007
Google



Magazine
Published on Sundays

Features: Magazine | Literary Review | Life | Metro Plus | Open Page | Education Plus | Book Review | Business | SciTech | Friday Review | Young World | Property Plus | Quest | Folio |

Magazine

Printer Friendly Page Send this Article to a Friend

Rare confluence of genius

“The Gentle Knight of Music” will long be remembered as a gracious tribute to a great musician. VATSALA VEDANTAM


It will also be remembered as the catalyst which brought together three outstanding alumni of Maharaja’s College, Mysore: Veena maestro, Doraiswamy Iyengar; M.V. Krishnaswamy, the legendary film maker; and bureaucrat-writer, H.Y. Sharada Prasad.


Photo: Courtesy Sugata Srinivasaraju

ARTISTIC MASTERPIECE: Doraiswamy (13) as the Asthaana Vidwan in the Mysore court.

If astronomers believe that “sparks of luminous energy fly” when two galaxies collide, can it be very different when an outstanding film maker encounters a gifted musician? In this case, the result has to be a film of exceptional brillian ce. Especially when they are blessed with a script writer who has the gift of making a story come alive. This kind of rare confluence between three talented artists saw the birth of “The Gentle Knight of Music”, an unusual mosaic on celluloid.

Deceptively simple in presentation, it covers a vast canvas to depict the life and career of one of the great musicians of our times, the unparalleled Veena maestro, Doraiswamy Iyengar. The film was created by M.V. Krishnaswamy, the legendary film maker who produced documentaries for the National Film Development Corporation and the Films Division, although he is better known as the man who moved in the company of giants like Roberto Rosselini and Ingrid Bergmman and who, like them, cared more for quality rather than mere numbers in his film career. The third dimension in this one-of-its-kind effort was the bureaucrat-writer, H.Y. Sharada Prasad who provided the script.

Sensitivity and charm

The result is an artistic masterpiece of great sensitivity and charm. It not only highlights the amazing virtuosity of Doraiswamy Iyengar, but it also pays tribute to one of the noblest of musical instruments. Through the veena, we get to know its finest exponents from Dikshitar, Dhanammal and Karaikudi Sambashiva Iyer to other stalwarts like Seshanna, Subbanna, Venkatagiriappa and Doraiswamy Iyengar himself. But, more than anything, the film captures the quintessential Mysore culture that boasted of “Sanskrit scholarship and classical music, silk and sandalwood, ivory and jasmine” among other things. Sharada Prasad, himself a by product of this culture, spares no effort to weave it seamlessly into the life of the vainika.

Doraiswamy was hardly 13 when he was appointed as the Asthaana Vidwan in the royal court of the Mysore maharajas, joining the ranks of illustrious musicians like Bidaram Krishnappa, Mysore Vasudevachar and T. Chowdiah among others. He hardly needs an introduction to his rasikas. His virtuosity was matched only by his humility, which shone in unexpected situations. When he went to meet M.S. Subbulakshmi while she was visiting Bangalore instead of announcing himself and walking in, I found him waiting patiently in the office room of The Hindu representative Venkatachalam, where MS was a house guest. His explanation was simple. “There are others who arrived before I did. I will wait for my turn.”

“The Gentle Knight of Music” captures the essence of the great vainika’s personality. His complete dedication to the veena, which bordered on reverence, is highlighted in the opening scene where you see him bent as if in prayer over the instrument that has been immortalised in paintings and sculptures, while his own alapana in Bhairavi is a haunting presence. We also hear excerpts in Arabhi, Sankarabharanaa and Naatai while the camera pans on a montage of black an d white photographs showing his chiselled features “like a Chola bronze”. The film portrays an artist who recoiled from flamboyance on the platform as he did in his life style.

Early life

Dorai was born in a village called Doddagaddanavalli in the district of Hassan. We are told that three persons played a role in transforming him into an artist of distinction. The first was his own father, an orthodox Brahmin who may have owned only a small patch of land, but who had big dreams for his infant son. His first step to realising this dream was to relocate to Mysore, the city of princes and palaces, whose residents were known for their elegant living.

There, young Dorai was initiated into the intricacies of Carnatic classical music. His teacher was Veena Seshanna’s disciple, Venkatagiriappa, who started lessons by teaching his pupil how to hold this noble instrument, how to compose his facial muscles while playing. The third was Maharaja Krishnarajendra Wodeyar himself. Once he was enrolled into the palace ensemble, new horizons opened. He mastered Hindustani as well as western classical music. Venkatesha Iyengar’s dreams for his gifted son began to materialise. The rest is history.

It needed a person of MVK’s genius to create a thematic film of great beauty out of archival material. In 1996, he mooted the idea to Dorai, his college buddy from Mysore. The Films Division sanctioned the proposal while another friend from college days, Sharada Prasad, agreed to write the script. He not only wrote the script, but provided a very stylish commentary too. The filmmaker could not have chosen a better person for this role. A well read, well informed writer, who was a year junior to Kittu in college, Sharada Prasad brings in elegance and élan to “The Gentle Knight”. MVK was ecstatic, and travelled to Hassan to find the correct location. Just when things were moving so fast, the veena maestro suddenly fell ill. And, a week later, he died.

“The film was completed with the help of family and friends, only after Dorai’s death,” says MVK sadly. “His music was obtained from the AIR archives.”



MVK with Bergman and Rosselini.

Octogenarian “Kittu” is better known as a documentary filmmaker even though he contributed to the shooting of celebrated films including the Ingrid Bergman-George Sanders classic “Viaggio in Italia”. Working with celebrities such as the eminent camera person, Aldo Tonti, he has also trained under great professionals like John Grierson who launched him in this field. He began his documentary making career by filming a vivid profile of Sir M. Visveswarayya.

His film career is rich with personal experiences in acting too. It began with a lead role in a Kannada film “Bharati”, where he co-starred with the leading ladies of the 1940s, T. Suryakumari and dancer Padmini. After a more than successful stint in the country’s major film institutions — including the National Film Development Corporation, the Film and Television Institute, Films Division of the I&B Ministry, the National Film awards Jury and the Film Censor Board — M.V. Krishnaswamy ventured into filmmaking.

He established his versatility in this genre when he recreated Moliere’s “Tartuffe” in that Kannada masterpiece “Subba Sastry” in 1966. After that, there was no turning back. Making films became his passion. Thirty years later, he surpassed himself by offering to the world of music this matchless portrayal of a well loved vainika.

Gracious tribute

“The Gentle Knight of Music” will long be remembered as a gracious tribute to one of the great masters. It will also be remembered as the catalyst which brought together three outstanding alumni of Maharaja’s College Mysore, better known as the Oxford of India: a college that had seen the likes of Professor Rollo, Eagleton, B.M. Srikantiah and A.N. Moorthy Rao; where giants like Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, C.R. Reddy and Brajendranath Seal left their imprint; where R.K. Narayan and R.K. Laxman had their beginnings.

It was in this charmed ambience that the three friends Kittu, Sharada and Dorai “shaped their ideas and ideals.” Their remarkable meeting 50 years later was not just a happy coincidence. It was a thanksgiving to their alma mater, to a city which shaped their destinies and, above all, to that charming Mysore culture that is no more.

E-mail: vatsala@vedantam.com


It will also be remembered as the catalyst which brought together three outstanding alumni of Maharaja’s College, Mysore: Veena maestro, Doraiswamy Iyengar; M.V. Krishnaswamy, the legendary film maker; and bureaucrat-writer, H.Y. Sharada Prasad.


Printer friendly page  
Send this article to Friends by E-Mail



Magazine

Features: Magazine | Literary Review | Life | Metro Plus | Open Page | Education Plus | Book Review | Business | SciTech | Friday Review | Young World | Property Plus | Quest | Folio |


The Hindu Group: Home | About Us | Copyright | Archives | Contacts | Subscription
Group Sites: The Hindu | Business Line | Sportstar | Frontline | Publications | eBooks | Images | Home |

Comments to : thehindu@vsnl.com   Copyright 2007, The Hindu
Republication or redissemination of the contents of this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of The Hindu