A musical journey
It's noon, and noted violinist Dr. L. Subramaniam and his wife Kavitha Krishnamurti are just back from an early-morning puja. In town to attend the inaugural of the Shiva Shanta Women and Childcare Centre and the Agastya Center of Excellence, they soon settle down for a tete-e-tete, not even a cozy one at that. In the quest for a good photo, we leave them sitting on the windowsill of The Residency for the good part of an hour. But, they are sportive enough to make themselves comfortable and start talking about their first love - music - and stuff they wanted to ask each other.
The sheer humility of the couple is enough to leave Subha J Rao overawed. But, she soon gets over that to record their conversation.
Kavitha: I think you, my better half (pointing to Subramaniam), should start. Tell me what is it like to come back to Coimbatore.
Subramaniam: Memories of my childhood are coming alive. We used to visit this place with our father to attend the Ramnavami concerts at Binny Subba Rao's place. It was `the' place for a kutchery then. Getting to play here again is so good.
Kavitha: You are such a renowned violinist. People here would love to hear you. When was the last time you played here?
Subramaniam: Maybe four years ago. Performing here, that too at the Temple of Fine Arts, is a blessing.
Kavitha: Yes. This city is so true to culture. It's one of the seats of Tamil culture...
Religion and spirituality
Subramaniam: It is difficult to separate Carnatic music and spirituality. What do you say?
Kavitha: Yes. For that matter, take any Indian music. It has basically come in from the saints. Automatically, a musician feels spiritual.
Subramaniam: Everything is integrated to spirituality. It gives the composer the strength to create.
Kavitha: Also, during those initial years of practice, prayer gives the strength to carry on and helps one focus.
Subramaniam: How was your foray into Bollywood like?
Kavitha: I grew up in Delhi, so I was used to what Bombay would be like. And, I had the protection of my family. When not in studios, I had nothing to do with the film industry. I had a traditional upbringing at home. That helped. What do you think?
Dr. L. S nods in agreement. Kavitha continues
Kavitha: I was not treated like a superstar at home. And, I don't think I was ever struck by film stars. I was more in awe of great singers.
Now, tell me, have you listened to any song of mine before we got together for `Global Fusion'? (Subramaniam' album)
(Before Subramaniam answers, she says: Of course, you haven't)
Subramaniam: You see, I stayed in South India. I used to listen to Hindi songs, but never knew who sang.
Kavitha: You're yet to answer
Subramaniam: I chose you for `Global Fusion' after listening to many singers. Your voice was striking. After marriage, I have listened to your songs. I think you've sung some really difficult compositions like Nimbuda.
Kavitha: Ok. When in college, some film songs must have impressed you, right? Which ones would you hum?
Subramaniam: My favourite composers were Viswanathan-Ramamurthy. I also loved the song, Mullai malar mele...
Kavitha: I remember your mentioning some song about laughter... What was that?
Subramaniam: That was comedian N.S. Krishnan's song.
(The conversation veers round to what the couple does on a regular day)
Subramaniam: We usually keep a low profile. Whatever time we get we like to spend with the children (Seetaa, Ambi and Raju).
Kavitha: Yes. You'd rather be with them. Sometimes being absentee parents can get very difficult, but we try to take them wherever we can.
Subramaniam: Yes. I remember turning down quite a few dinner invites because they entailed leaving the kids alone.
(I intercept to ask them what their dinner table conversation is like)
Kavitha: We discuss music, album releases and what happens in the kids' school and our daughter (Seetaa) tells us about strange things that happened in college. And, rarely, we discuss politics.
Subramaniam: Yes. Whatever appears in the newspaper is spoken about.
Kavitha: Your friend Y. Gee. Mahendra had me surprised when he told me you used to play for films. I never knew that.
Subramaniam: My older brother L. Vaidyanathan was into films. A. R. Rahman's father, Sekhar, would call us to play during our holidays. That helped us earn some pocket money. I would also play for college functions.
Kavitha: You've done a lot of East-West fusion. Someday, do you aspire to create a Western music-based symphony?
Subramaniam: (Thinking) I've always wanted to write compositions based on our ragas. That is my signature.
Kavitha: You're the greatest violinist I've ever listened to. You've done so much. What else do you want to do?
Subramaniam: Create an institution in my father's name for music. I've done whatever I wanted to - bring violin to the centrestage, play with Chembai, do jugalbandis and the like. Now, I want to write books on music. People should know more about our music. And you?
Kavitha: I want to work alongside you in the path of music, do albums where lyrics reign supreme and render quality songs. People know me through my songs. So, my music should project my way of life.
Subramaniam: You improvise a lot while singing. I wonder why you have still not composed music?
Kavitha: Maybe someday, I'll compose 7-8 songs for the heck of it. And, get you (smiling at her husband) to help me record them.
Subramaniam: I think you'll do a great job.
Kavitha: You know, I look forward to attending your concerts. I never know what you're going to play beforehand. Sometimes you decide you're going to play this raga, but change your mind before the concert.
Subramaniam: That's true. The minute I step into the concert hall, there is this inner voice telling me what to play. I listen.
(They soon get talking about their pet likes and dislikes)
Kavitha: You leave small bits of paper all over the place. And, since I don't know to read Tamil, I don't know what is written on a boarding pass is a piece of music or something else.
Subramaniam: (silently watches her)
Kavitha: I love cleaning cupboards too. That's my passion.
Subramaniam: I keep my things lying around. We differ on this issue, but we have so many other things in common.
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