That nice mid­dle ground

The dif­fer­ent di­men­sions of Kanyaku­mari the teacher emerge as the sishyas chat with Geetha Venkatara­manan

The Hindu - - MISCELLANY -

Gen­er­ous, hum­ble and ded­i­cated are some of the ad­jec­tives stu­dents of A. Kanyaku­mari use to de­scribe their guru. She shares her knowl­edge and money with the same gen­eros­ity, they say in uni­son. “There have been oc­ca­sions when she has handed over the re­mu­ner­a­tion cover to me to be dis­bursed among ac­com­pa­nists,” says Em­bar Kan­nan.

“Ab­so­lutely de­tached,” say long-time as­so­ciates Prasanna and Kan­nan. “She is not pos­ses­sive about her dis­ci­ples, they are free to do what they wish with their tal­ent. She is the first to en­cour­age and ap­plaud when we do some­thing new,” they say.

Re­spect for co-artists is men­tioned as an­other en­dear­ing qual­ity. “Dur­ing class and re­hearsals I feel I’m way be­hind but on stage we are at par. We sit to­gether, there is no sec­ond fid­dle,” says Kan­nan, an ob­ser­va­tion echoed by Prasanna. “It is a two-way en­ergy flow with nei­ther dom­i­neer­ing,” he sup­plies. A happy fall­out is that they em­u­late their guru in all these as­pects.

The dis­ci­ples as­sem­bled ea­gerly to watch their teacher present a pa­per at the Mu­sic Academy con­fer­ence and hap­pily posed for a picture with her af­ter the ses­sion. A few se­niors shared the cher­ished im­pres­sions of their guru. “At 16, I sat with her on stage to per­form – a rare gen­eros­ity,” ob­serves Em­bar Kan­nan of Kanyaku­mari, his guru for three decades. She teaches with­out reser­va­tions and ev­ery per­for­mance is a les­son for me,” he adds.

Af­ter com­plet­ing ini­tial lessons with Sub­banna Bha­ga­vatar and Vit­tal Ra­ma­murthi, Kan­nan came un­der the tute­lage of Kanyaku­mari and con­sid­ers it a bless­ing. “It was a whole new world. As a teenager, I ap­plied for all the com­pe­ti­tions in­clud­ing the Mu­sic Academy where the stan­dard was high. She helped me face the chal­lenge and I won prizes which boosted my con­fi­dence,” he rem­i­nisces.

Kanyaku­mari took him along to con­certs out­side Chen­nai to pres­ti­gious plat­forms in Mum­bai and Delhi. With ex­po­sure came more op­por­tu­ni­ties and there was no look­ing back. “She would never stand in my way, what­ever my for­ays were. If I had a solid eightyear as­so­ci­a­tion with maestro Ilai­yaraja, it was be­cause of her cos­mopoli­tan out­look, the vi­sion to in­clude ev­ery­thing.

It was this open mind­ed­ness that let Kanyaku­mari watch with pride as her pupils en­gage in western col­lab­o­ra­tions. “About her en­sem­bles much has been writ­ten. Be­hind all those ef­forts is the sin­gle­minded goal to show­case the in­stru­ment. It is the vi­o­lin that she holds aloft, ev­ery time she gets an award or ac­co­lade,” says Kan­nan, who can­not stop talk­ing about his guru’s ded­i­ca­tion. “If she is in

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