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PVK: Tireless foot soldier for spreading art awareness, no more
- Leela Venkataraman
e-mail: leelakaverivenkat@gmail.com
Photos courtesy: Indu Balachandran

October 20, 2019

The world was a poorer place for me on hearing that a great friend, well-wisher and fine human being PVK, as P.V. Krishnamoorthy was fondly known, had left this world (at the ripe old age of 98) in the early hours of October 17th morning in Chennai. A deep sadness came over me when the person who for me, amongst all my contacts, was most deserving of one of the highest of State awards, had died quietly, with no all-India recognition - even while lesser talents are being decorated all the time. Less than a month ago in Chennai, I called on him to have an engaging hour's conversation, or see him playing on his Keyboard- something I had never failed to do in all the years he had settled in Chennai, in a flat very close to my daughter's house. As his loving daughter-in-law guided me to his bedroom, this last time, I saw a frail PVK, still recovering from an unfortunate fall he had. He spoke to me softly - happy I was there. I left soon on seeing that he was in no shape to engage in any sort of tete a tete.

PVK as announcer, AIR

PVK on keyboard
I first met PVK in 1957, when he was Director of Cuttack AIR (All India Radio) and as a neighbour dropped in for informal chats with my husband and me whenever he could get away from office by about 7pm. I realised, within a few minutes of our first meeting that this younger brother of the great dance and music critic Subbudu (P.V. Subramaniam) in Delhi was himself no mean connoisseur and composer of music (the highly developed music gene being part of the family DNA), though as personalities, the two were very different. Phenomenally tireless in promoting and trying through Radio and later Television to spread musical awareness, he recounted to me how in Burma where the family lived, as a youngster he owned his own orchestral troupe which was constantly engaged in shows. His first posting after the family's gruelling escape journey to India from Burma was to AIR Kozhikode where he discovered folk traditions of music and started several schemes for documenting the various musical genres of the region. When he came to Odisha from Kerala, he rose up to be regarded as a 'living legend'. All the well known names in Odisha's music of the fifties and sixties were PVK's discoveries nurtured through AIR programmes.

Akshaya Mohanty, Bhubaneswar Misra, the great violinist who had studied under Dwaram Venkataswamy Naidu aside from his regional Odissi excellence, singer Balakrushna Das and even dancer and guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. He had actively worked with them and directed then in several programmes. He was the person who discovered the great flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia. He narrated the story of how he had written to the Delhi head office of AIR to send some instrumentalists to bolster the very depleted couple of musicians he had in AIR Cuttack, for performing the orchestral compositions he was envisaging and which in due course of time became hits. One day coming to office, he was informed by the watchman that a certain young man from Benares had arrived in the middle of the night saying he was a flute player. He had been allowed to spend the night in the AIR office. PVK met the youngster who seemed to have what looked like a tiny toy flute and asked him to demonstrate what he could play. He had called his staff working in the music department to listen with him.


PVK and Hariprasad Chaurasia


PVK conducts AIR orchestra, with Hariprasad Chaurasia on flute

To quote PVK, "He told me "Mein apko ek Benares ki Kajri sunaoonga" (Will treat you to a Kajri composition from Benares). Expecting very little we all sat down and lo and behold, as soon as he played the first note and by the time of the opening line we were almost falling off our chairs! We had acquired a genius in our midst! The Delhi office which had perhaps sent the first person who applied also did not know what potential the youngster had!" PVK rushed to the shop the same evening to buy 12 flutes of different specifications, timbre, size etc. He was already planning out his orchestral possibilities! The rest is history and Hariprasad Chaurasia in his book has acknowledged that PVK was the one who discovered his talent. Also, it was PVK's unerring eye that spotted the hidden genius in Kelucharan Mohapatra and PVK with his Radio team worked closely with him in producing dance drama productions like Konark Jagaran, which so thrilled Pandit Nehru who happened to be in Bhubaneswar at the time, that he asked specially to see the dance composer after the show!

I remember the late night rehearsals at the AIR office building with fussy mothers of young dancers totally relaxed that while PVK was in charge, they had nothing to worry about the safety of their girls - who would be dropped home in the wee hours of the morning.


PVK, the first DG of Doordarshan
PVK's musical acumen created the score for many a lyric. He composed tunes for Bengali, Odiya and Malayalam compositions and great singers like Talat Mahmood, Meena Kapur, Sandhya Mukherjee, Manavendra Mukherjee, Udaya Bhave and Akshaya Mohanty sang these songs. His tunes adorned the works of famous lyricists like Gauri Prashant Majumdar, Pulak Bandopadhyaya, Shyamal Gupta, Narsang Mohapatra and Chaurasia in his book has praised PVK's composing abilities. His research into and discovery of less known genres of music made him famous. With his "Bharath Teerth - Journey" on wings of music wherein he took folk music and other traditional musical forms to other rural areas, and to people in all parts of the country was in a way knitting them into one land. His documentation work, and the great quality he had of educating people about working on subtleties of sound management, of musical values, of how to place and arrange microphones, of how to compose for different needs and occasions - endeared him to one and all. His work in Odisha was appreciated to such an extent that Harekrushna Mahtab, the then Chief Minister in 1957, conferred on PVK the Prajatantra Prachar Samiti Award! The people of Odisha to this day, have a special place for him in their hearts.

PVK's entry into Television when it came to India was equally distinctive. As an administrator for India's needs, he was put in charge of Ford funded School Television, UNESCO's special education programme as a medium for informing and educating youngsters of the country, through the medium of art. Needless to say, his work was lauded by one and all.

When PVK took charge of Doordarshan, he showed the same uncanny knack for not just spotting talent but discovering the kind of presence the camera lens thrives on - thereby really catching and holding audience attention - and that is a quality beyond mere beauty of form. PVK it was, that discovered Smita Patil for Bombay Television and before long the greatest of film makers drawn to her very lively, attractive TV personality, cast her in films. She became one of the biggest names and Smita always acknowledged that she owed her success to PVK.

There was another very popular programme introducing movie stars called "Phool Khile Hai Gulshan Gulshan" conducted by a person nobody thought would become so famous - Tabbassum. She again was picked up by PVK and despite doubts in the minds of others about how a non-glamorous person would succeed, he was sure his selection was right - and indeed it was. People used to stop all their activity to be able to watch this show!

When I once remarked to PVK in admiration of the number of greats he had spotted for various arts, he replied: "I don't have to go looking for such persons. I smell greatness - an ability God has given me."

It was again PVK who got me involved in programmes for AIR doing interviews, participating in discussions and later for Doordarshan in Delhi. I even interviewed him once. He was such an informal person that the fact of being in the presence of an exceptionally tall person never overawed the interviewer. He often used me as the narrator for Sight documentaries - like the one on the Rourkela Steel Plant. I was amazed to see the dexterity of his off-the-cuff dictations to his stenographer on what the various characters he envisaged had to say in a sound track he was devising for one of the AIR features. His understanding of the medium of broadcasting was total.

A man who knew his job, was incorruptible, who could speak from the shoulder to anybody who tried 'one-upmanship' he was second to none. PVK remained on many important committees like IIMC, FTTI, the Kathak Kendra and from 1983-'88 he was Vice Chairman of the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi. He was one of the very valuable members of the G. Parthasarathy Committee for Radio and Television.

A loving family man, along with all his work, he had his share of tragedy during the last few years. His only daughter Meera died fairly young. He lost his very dear wife a few years back- a homely person and great culinary talent - whose kitchen remained so sparkling clean that you could literally lick the floors! PVK accepted the ups and downs of life with a grace and stoic forbearance - quite admirable. The one person who read my books thoroughly from cover to cover, I will miss his comments and his genial, smiling presence. He had a full life. May his soul rest in peace. Adieu guide, philosopher and friend!

Writing on the dance scene for the last forty years, Leela Venkataraman's incisive comments on performances of all dance forms, participation in dance discussions both in India and abroad, and as a regular contributor to Hindu Friday Review, journals like Sruti and Nartanam, makes her voice respected for its balanced critiquing. She is the author of several books like Indian Classical dance: Tradition in Transition, Classical Dance in India and Indian Classical dance: The Renaissance and Beyond.








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