Sunday, 8 March 2020

M.S. Subbulakshmi, a recipient of Bharat Rathna who dedicated her life to Classical Carnatic Music

Bharat rathna MS amma (1916 - 2004) greatest Carnatic musician. cinestaan.com

More often than not we've heard people mention about women's empowerment  in our society. In India, where women were well respected in the society centuries ago, in the later period, for various reasons, they were relegated  down to the other end.  In spite of  bottlenecks and roadblocks in our society,  since early freedom struggle, daring women have never failed to show their capability and courage to deal with any tight situation.  In the past few decades, women empowerment has gained importance and, 
in particular, in the last decade, we have seen Indian women  donning roles in the fields once dominated by men. Example  in the realm of flying aircraft, war planes  high altitude dangerous mountaineering,  heading corporate conglomerates,   decision-making process  in politics, commerce, etc.  They, in a way, come under the umbrella of  empowerment, accepting  challenges   as part of decision-making process in important fields.  Empowerment gives women the ability to gain power, confidence  and experience over their own lives, society, and in their communities.   Women get a chance to avail themselves of  opportunities available to them without  any limits and and restrictions such as in education,  various professions  and  social lifestyle.  Empowerment is about creating an awareness and preparing them  to make life-determining decisions in the midst of many societal problems and taking the country forward along with men.
Strong woman. quoteambition.com

Today being  woman's day, I dedicate this post to the following great Indian women  of by-gone era;  Srimathi.M.S. Subbulakshmi,  Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy,  Mrs.Rukmini Devi Arundale: Rani (queen) Velu Nachiyar (a great freedom fighter). What was special about them?  They made a mark in their respective fields  not because of their innate skill but because of their ability to persevere and hang in there  with courage and commitment when facing mounting problems. They emerged victorious after a long struggle.

Born on 16 September 1916 in Madurai, Madras Presidency, India M.S. Subbulakshmi (Kunjamma to her family )  was known as the Queen of Music;  here parents were  famous Veena player Shanmukavadivu  Ammal and Subramania Iyer. Dedicated her life to Carnatic Classical music  in which she was a dominant personality for several decades,  MS was the recipient of Bharat Ratna - second woman to  achieve this feat  and the  first Indian musician to have  received  the Ramon Magsaysay award, roughly equal to Asia's Nobel Prize.  Her grandmother Akkammal was a violinist.
Beginning her training in  Carnatic music at  a very young age  under the expert guidance of doyen in Carnatic music late sri  Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, being smart as she was, MS had mastered  the nuances of this classical form of music, quite popular in South India (most of the compositions were in  the Telugu language native to Andhra) and subsequently she also got trained in  Hindustani music under Pandit Narayanrao Vyas.  Her mother happened to be a  regular stage musical performer  and her family's musical background  was quite helpful to her. Her mother and well wishers provided a nice ambiance conducive to her  further progress and advances in the frontier of  various phases of Classical Carnatic music. Yet another advantage she had was her drive and keen interest in the classical music and her innate ability to absorb it  and adopt it to her interest/taste.  Her musical talent was further shaped by her additional  training under the greats teachers like

Karaikudi Sambasiva Iyer, Mazhavarayanendal Subbarama Bhagavathar and Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar. The latter guru was quite famous in the Karikudi area and was quite popular in those days.

MS with lata and other women artists. .livemint.com
 Above image:  M.S. Subbulakshmi with singer Lakshmi Shankar (from left), Hindi and Tamil actor-dancer Vyjayanthimala Bali, Film singer Lata Mangeshkar and daughter Radha Vishwanathan, in 1994 in Chennai, TN .........................
Can you imagine that  Subbulakshmi   got a chance to make her first  public performance, at the  tender age of eleven, in 1927; the venue was a divine place - 100 pillar hall inside the Rockfort Temple complex, Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu (then Madras Presidency). What counted most interesting was her accompanying artists.  They were  Mysore Chowdiah on the violin and Dakshinamurthy Pillai on the mridangam ( a South Indian classical  percussion instrument) and these were artists of great repute in those days. This program was organized by  none other than the Tiruchirappalli-based Indian National Congress leader 
F. G. Natesa Iyer.  After making several public performances she took the right decision  and moved over to Madras (Chennai) in  1936.  Here, she made  film debut in  in a Tamil movie  Sevasadan in May, 1938 opposite F. G. Natesa Iyer.  The movie  was based on a Tamil drama  directed by late K. Subrahmanyam,  (an advocate and  father of vintage Tamil Cinema). It is one of the early Tamil films to be set in a contemporary social setting.  The film deals with prostitution and women's emancipation. It has a strong political thrust despite being a musical. The plot has strong feminist views. Sitalakshmi, a Brahmin widow, played  by MS was the main character in that film.  It was a commercially   successful film. She also acted in several other Tamil movies and the famous ones being Sakunthala  (1940) and Meera (1949), her last film directed by  popular  American director Ellis R Dunga., 
Nehru with MS Subbulakshmi in 1947. Courtesy West Virginia State Archives, USA

 She was honored as a resident artist - Asthana Vidhwan  of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams. Tirupati Urban Development Authority (TUDA), Andhra state  installed a bronze statue of M.S. Subbulakshmi at the Poornakumbham circle in the  busy part of temple town. It was unveiled by  Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister late Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy on 28 May 2006, indeed a great honor for a distinguished musician who gave several ''Free''  musical performances and made countless donations. She was a great devotee of the Kanchi seer Periyavar and others of sri Sankarachariyar Mutt of Kanchipuram, TN. At Tirumala Balaji temple, almost daily in the early morning  (at Thirupalli ezhuchchi) the devotees will hear her soulful rendition of  Vishnu Subrabatham sung by her  and Mrs.  Radha Viswanathan (daughter of the  famous journalist Sadhasivam's first wife.). Sri Sadashivam who happened to be the closest associate of late C. Rajagopala Chari (Rajaji), the first Gov. Gen. of independent India  and former CM of Madras  Presidency, married MS on 10 July 1940 in the presence of  Rajaji, late Kalki Krishnamurthy and others.

Harewood (the director of the famous Edinburgh festival) invited her to perform at the 1963 Edinburgh festival. Her wonderful music  concert received  excellent reviews from the London press, contributing to her rising global popularity. Following year
invited by the then UN Secretary General, U Thant,  MS' music concert  at the General Assembly in New York on United Nations Day-  October 23, 1964  was a popular one. It was a seven-week concert tour in the USA by her talented team of accompanists, comprising V.V. Subramaniam (violin), T.K. Murthy (mridangam), T.H. Vinayakaram (ghatam), and her daughters Radha Viswanathan (vocal) and Vijaya Rajendran (tanpura).
Subbulakshmi  successfully completed the tour with her husband, Kalki Sadasivam
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''  Indian music is oriented solely to the end of divine communication. If I have done something in this respect entirely due to the grace of the Almighty who has chosen my humble self as a tool.''— M. S. Subbulakshmi,(Carnatic vocal musician).

 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M._S._Subbulakshmi