On a per­sonal note: sudha ra­gu­nathan

Governance Now - - CONTENTS - As told to Yoshika San­gal

Sudha Ra­gu­nathan is a renowned Car­natic vo­cal­ist and com­poser. She has per­formed across In­dia and abroad. Her guru was Padma Bhushan ML Vas­an­thaku­mari, known by many as a mu­si­cal ge­nius and a doyenne of Car­natic mu­sic. Sudha’s most fas­ci­nat­ing and mem­o­rable per­for­mance was Vande mataram at the cen­tral house of par­lia­ment dur­ing the 50th Re­pub­lic Day celebrations in 2000. She has also per­formed at a con­cert or­gan­ised by the United Na­tions. Apart from teach­ing mu­sic, she is the man­ag­ing trustee of Sa­mud­haaya Foun­da­tion that as­sists vic­tims of na­tional calami­ties, and works for un­der­priv­i­leged peo­ple. She was awarded Padma Shri in 2004 and Padma Bhushan in 2015.

Tell us about your gu­rus and their role in your mu­si­cal ca­reer.

mu­sic was al­ways present in our fam­ily. My mother was my first guru. I have been play­ing around with notes! it was be­cause of my mother’s per­se­ver­ance and com­mit­ment in push­ing me each and ev­ery time. my for­mal train­ing be­gan with Vid­wan TV Viswanathan and BV lak­sh­man. later, i got an op­por­tu­nity to learn from the Padma Bhushan ml Vas­an­thaku­mari.

How can Car­natic mu­sic’s scope and au­di­ence be in­creased?

The scope is al­ready in­creas­ing. Younger gen­er­a­tion is now choos­ing it as their pro­fes­sion. op­por­tu­ni­ties are plenty now. How­ever, in­creas­ing the au­di­ence needs to ad­dressed se­ri­ously. Though there are plenty of con­certs be­ing or­gan­ised, the au­di­ence turnout is lean in most of these. con­certs have to be made more en­gag­ing. Gone are the days when con­certs were held for three to four hours. Times have changed. du­ra­tions are shorter and au­di­ence wants essence cap­tured in that short time. We can fo­cus on lec­ture demon­stra­tions, the­matic con­certs and singing new kri­tis and raa­gas.

Tell us about Sa­mud­haaya Foun­da­tion. What are the so­cial causes you are work­ing for?

I was deeply moved by the Kargil war and wanted to do some­thing for the fam­i­lies of war heros. i was al­ready in­volved in so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties

and sang in con­certs to raise funds for char­i­ties or­gan­ised by oth­ers. i wanted to have the in­di­vid­u­al­ity and the in­de­pen­dence to do what i wanted and when i wanted, with no­body ques­tion­ing it. Thus, i started Sa­mud­haaya Foun­da­tion in 1999. af­ter iden­ti­fy­ing a cause, we or­gan­ise a con­cert and raise funds for it. at present, we are fund­ing special wheel­chairs and BIPAP ven­ti­la­tors. We are also work­ing on restora­tion of ponds and spon­sor­ing two ponds in Tamil nadu where we would be fund­ing for the com­plete de­silt­ing and restora­tion works.

How was your ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing in films?

I loved it. It is a to­tally dif­fer­ent ter­rain. all per­spec­tives change and i learnt a lot of good things from the other side – lit­tle nu­ances yet ab­so­lutely con­struc­tive.

Does mu­sic pro­vide equal op­por­tu­nity and pay to all ir­re­spec­tive of the gen­der?

it is im­prov­ing though there is still gen­der bias loom­ing large, even if dis­creetly.

What do you think about free on­line mu­sic shar­ing?

it is wel­come. it gives more vis­i­bil­ity and widens your hori­zon. The

spec­trum of au­di­ence reach also ex­pands. We­b­cast­ing and on­line shar­ing have quite be­come the or­der of the day. Free mu­sic is how­ever ques­tion­able and de­bat­able. Why should mu­sic be given free?

What qual­i­ties should mu­sic stu­dents in­cul­cate?

Hu­mil­ity, re­spect for the art, mu­sic and the au­di­ence they sing for. They should dili­gently prac­tise, be ‘thirsty’ to keep learn­ing and be con­scious of what they sing. And fi­nally, pa­tience and per­sis­tence.

Photo cour­tesy: sudha ra­gu­nathan

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