QUEEN OF CARNATIC
TThe music of M.L. Vasanthakumari, MLV to those who knew her, was a genre of its own. She and her contemporaries, D.K. Pattammal and M.S. Subbulakshmi, were known as the ‘female trinity of Carnatic music’—hinting at a status bordering the divine. MLV’s renditions trespassed the traditional boundaries of the form; her film songs became katcheri (concert) songs and her classical works were incorporated into popular cinema.
In honour of MLV’s 90th birthday this year, Sudha Raghunathan, her disciple and one of the most soughtafter Carnatic vocalists today, will perform at a concert at Stein Auditorium, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, on November 25 along with renowned Bharatanatyam dancer Rama Vaidyanathan. Titled ‘Samadrishti’, the performance will explore the ‘same gaze’ that the performers will interpret through their different disciplines. “[MLV] sang a lot of film songs, which are very classical and can fit into a katcheri. There are many ashtapadis and padams that she popularised. For us, being able to do this is in itself a privilege,” explains Raghunathan. “I feel that sometimes, she sang only for dance,” adds Vaidyanathan. “She often sang for her daughter (actress Srividya), who’s an accomplished Bharatanatyam dancer.”
The concert will feature seven or eight songs in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Sanskrit. Disciples say MLV endeavoured never to isolate the singer from the song, but to bring together a certain bhava (expression) that was personalised. “She understood the versatility of each voice and that there are advantages, disadvantages and dimensions to it. She gave a leeway to do more than what she had interpreted in the songs,” says Raghunathan. “There are parts where my music reacts to Rama’s abhinaya and there are parts where she waits for my embellishments and reacts to them.”