Natya Darshan Seminar
EPIC WOMEN - Conference / Performance conclave
HMV - Her Majestic Voice

- Veejay Sai
Photo: Vipul Sangoi

December 21, 2012

What better way to pay tribute to the glory of womanhood than by celebrating the city’s most iconic cultural ambassador to the rest of the world? The EPIC WOMEN conference conducted by Arangham Trust, Kartik Fine Arts and Dr. Anita Ratnam commenced to a packed Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan auditorium, all eager to listen to the story of this one woman. No other artiste can continue to attract so much attention, year after year, like M.S. Subbulakshmi does. Performing a special Harikatha in her memory and honour ‘Manikka Veena’ by Revathy Sankkaran had the whole hall in raptures from the very go. The term ‘Manikka Veena’ is an inspiration from Kalidasa’s ‘Shyamala Dandakam’ and in this case Revathy pronounces MSS as an incarnation of that veena that was in the hands of the goddess.

Revathy Sankkaran's Harikatha on M.S. Subbulakshmi presented story-telling intermingled  effectively with song, humor, and energy.  Revathy began with how she struggled through this idea and bring about an almost-Harikatha presentation, yet not a boring one. The Harikatha was not a bio-sketch of MSS nor was it a narration of chronological events in her life. It was a commendable effort and a genuine act of love from a smitten fan and her personal heroine. Revathy took the audiences through various episodes from the life of MSS. Her pre-birth in the heavens, her birth in Madurai, her tutelage under her mother and family, her association with Thirumala Thirupathi Devasthanams to revive the lost compositions of poet-saint Annamacharya, her innumerable charities and her brief stint in the film world. Entertaining everyone with her wit, a few light music songs and some soul stirring Carnatic music, Revathy concluded her Harikatha at the point where everyone in the audience just wanted more of it. Revathy should easily be one of this city’s finest artistes with unbelievable levels of versatility. Her sense of instant wit, pun, subtle satire and imagination added to her beautiful voice.

Although non-Tamil speakers missed much of the content, Revathy's engaging performance style kept the entire audience riveted to her words, gestures, and songs. It would be great if Revathy could develop a full-fledged Harikatha out of this. This is a piece of work that needs to travel to every corner of the world where Carnatic music is worshipped.

Veejay Sai is a writer, editor, and culture critic.