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Vasu's father played a big role in the formation and evolution of the sabha. Also, Vasu's standing as a  industrialist helped the academy draw money from other corporate houses



A monarch under question 

Two contenders challenge the 18-year reign of T T Vasu over the Madras Music Academy, and Nalli Kuppuswamy Chetty, the silk samrat, hopes to be elected to another post in recognition of his munificence

Chennai's most prestigious music sabha, the Music Academy, is in turmoil, with the supremacy of its long-serving president, T T Vasu, being challenged by two office-bearers, Maitreyi Ramadurai (secretary) and S M Sundaram (vice-president).

While Maitreyi Ramadurai, an advocate, has been associated with the academy for many years and is generally considered to have served it well, Sundaram belongs to the industrialist family of Easwar Iyer. Maitreyi is the sister of well-known musicologist V V Srivatsa, who is contesting for the post of secretary.

An inside source says industrialist Vasu is suffering from a serious ailment, and many feel he should refrain from contesting when he is not physically capable of carrying out his duties.

His supporters argue that members should take a sympathetic view and allow him to continue as president and take on some of his responsibilities to make the job easier for him.

The Music Academy has always had its share of controversies, whether related to picking of the Sangitha Kalanidhi awardee, allotment of slots for musicians, or allocation of funds.

A common complaint has been that Vasu is autocratic and rides roughshod over other office-bearers. Similarly, many office-bearers are accused of pushing personal agendas. Usually, these allegations are well known in music circles but are kept away by common consent from the public eye.

T T Vasu has been heading the Music Academy for the last 18 years, his family's unquestioned contribution to the construction of the TTK auditorium and the development of the sabha being his main qualifications for the post. His father T T Krishnamachari played a big role in the formation and evolution of the sabha. The funds the TTK family poured in over the years helped the sabha's growth. Also, Vasu's standing as a leading industrialist helped draw monetary contributions from other corporate houses.

The entry of Nalli Kuppuswamy Chetty into the fray -- he is contesting for the post of vice-president -- has added more colour. The silk samrat, a ubiquitous presence at the music sabhas in the city, might well feel that his munificence should be rewarded with a position in the Music Academy.

This year's contest, slated for June 24, has generally seen a rise in the number of people fighting it out. There is a significant rise in the number of business magnates contesting.

It is also learnt that another industrialist, Mr Obul Reddy, was offered the post of president, with all others saying that then they would not contest, but he declined.

A few musicians and artistes are part of the race, but the contest still begs the question: are music sabhas, because of their dependence on sponsorship, turning into rich men's clubs?

Ambujam Anantharaman

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