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Violinist with versatile skills

LAKSHMI DEVANTH

Perseverance and genius have combined to elevate violinist Chandrasekaran to the stature of Sangita Kalanidhi.


Made his debut in 1949 when he was only 11. Also became a graded artiste of AIR. Won the Best Violinist Award from the Music Academy in 1950. duets with co-vidwan T.N. Krishnan were great hits in 1970. . Repertoire includes his own compositions _ kritis, javalis and varnams.



LEGACY PASSED ON: M. Chandrasekaran and daughter G. Bharathi

Ask Sangita Kalanidhi (designate) M. Chandrasekaran for his reaction to the award, and he emotionally says, "I dedicate this honour at the feet of my late mother who was also my guru."

Charubala Mohan, for that was his mother's name, was shocked when, at the age of two, her second son, Chandrasekaran, turned irreversibly blind — an aftermath of jaundice. But she was not one to wallow in sorrow and she hated to be pitied. Charubala was an accomplished violinist having first learnt music from Umayalpuram Venkatrama Iyer and then the violin from Sangita Kalanidhi T. K. Jayarama Iyer. She sensed that her son had an instinctive understanding of music.

Charubala was not wrong. When he was barely three years old, Chandrasekaran could identify many ragas. His mother decided that music would be his profession. Vocal lessons began in right earnest. At this juncture, the family was in Kanpur and Charubala employed a teacher to teach him Hindustani music as also the harmonium. With the demise of Chandrasekaran's father, Charubala decided to shift to Madras. Her goal was a successful career in music for Chandrasekaran.

Initiation

In Madras, she initiated her seven-year-old into the violin. Throughout Chandrasekaran's life she would remain his sole guru in the art of violin playing. Quick grasp and a prodigious memory were amongst Chandrasekaran's gifts but there was one problem — he had difficulty in positioning the bow. Persistence paid and that irritant was overcome. The vital lesson that Chandrasekaran learnt from his mother was that a person need not be daunted by adversities and should try to conquer them.

In later years, much to the admiration of his colleagues, Chandrasekaran would not only globe trot by himself but also `watch' movies avidly besides listening to old Tamil film songs with great relish.

In 1949, eleven-year-old Chandrasekaran made his debut at a concert in the Tyagaraja Vidwat Samajam, Mylapore. The very same year he qualified himself as a graded artiste of All India Radio. In 1950, he won the Best Violinist Award from the Music Academy. In 1951, he accompanied flautist T. Viswanathan, at the Academy and in the same year played for GNB at a family wedding.

The year was 1952 and the venue the Kapali temple. Maharajapuram Visvanatha Iyer's accompanist, Chandrasekaran, had thrilled all with his kalpanaswaras for the phrase, "Agamamula Nutiyinchi'' in the Pantuvarali song, ``Siva Siva, Siva Yenaradha...''

The same year, The Hindu, in a review of a concert of Salem Desikan at Vani Mahal, praised violinist Chandrasekaran as a "child prodigy." With such impressive performances it was not long before Chandrasekaran was playing fiddle for all top-ranking performers like Madurai Mani, Mali, Alathur Brothers, Semmangudi, T. K. Rangachari and so on. A brilliant rendition of the raga Kathanakutoohalam had Nagaswara Chakravarti, T. N. Rajarathnam Pillai, caressing the boy's palms remarking, "These hands will play many more ragas thus." It was a blessing that fructified, for Chandrasekaran till date is a much sought-after artiste in the concert circuit.

Chandrasekaran is a commendable vocalist too. In this, besides his mother, he has been trained by Mannargudi Sambasiva Bhagavatar, Kumbakonam Viswanatha Iyer and Vidyala Narasimhulu Naidu. From T. Jayammal he learnt padams and javalis. This he feels has helped him to hone his violin and vocal skills in no mean measure. With a bent of mind that allows him to absorb the best of all that he hears, Chandrasekaran's style of violin playing is, in the words of Sangita Kalanidhi Dr. R. Pinakapani, "A blend of vocal, veena and nagaswaram."

Chandrasekaran's impressive repertoire of songs includes his own compositions — varnams, kritis, javalis and so on. In the 1970s, his duets with T. N. Krishnan were great hits amongst the public. As an accompanist, he thrills rasikas not only with his repartees but also by playing phrases from popular songs to indicate the ragas sung by the main performer.

A plethora of awards from reputed music organisations, a sizeable number of sishyas that include his daughter Bharati, concerts across the globe... Chandrasekaran is a contented man. He takes absolutely no credit for his achievements attributing them all to the grace of God and to the toils of his mother. In her name, with the help of his children and disciples, he has started the `Charubala Mohan Trust' that honours many a deserving artiste.

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