Paramasivan is now
71, and he sang some lovely theatre songs in a reedy, fluent voice. His music was a treat
Nagabharana, who has made a big name in cinema, compered the show, and kept requesting the artistes to sing his
favourite theatre songs!
Know who did the music for G V Iyer’s milestone film Hamsageethe? T G Lingappa and B V Karanth. And who got the best music director award for it? M Balamuralikrishna! Therein lies a story…
and soul songs
Spandana, the theatre group headed by B Jayashree, celebrated its 25th year in Bangalore by felicitating some of the great names of Kannada theatre.
The evening at Ravindra Kalakshetra (9 July, 2002) was more than well-attended with the crowd spilling on to the aisles. Arundhati Nag was sitting on the balcony aisle. Well-known cinematographer Bhaskar was there. Many many others came out of a deep sense of respect for theatre and for the people who have kept theatre alive and enriched lives.
G V Iyer, Malathamma, (Jayashri’s mother, a legend in her own right) and Subhadramma Mansur frm Bellary, Paramasivan and Enagi Balappa, all household names across the theatre loving public of Karnataka, were feted. The full house stayed put, were awake to all that was being said and cheered the proceedings in a heartening show of support for Kannada theatre. Kappana and Nagabharana compered the show.
Each of the artistes sang a couple of theatre songs. Paramasivan, now 71, sang in such a fluid voice that it was amazing that he is so little known outside company drama circles. His drama songs, mostly based on difficult Karnatak ragas and one of them from a 1935 production, were a treat. That, and his fluent harmonium playing, vividly brought to mind the demands company drama made on its actors: they couldn’t but be accomplished in music. He was honoured by music director and singer C Ashwath.
Subhadramma Mansur, who hails from Bellary, has
worked in company drama for 50 years. Her rendering of the
Akkamahadevi vachana Bettada melondu maneya maadi
drew appreciative whistles. Y K Muddukrishna honoured her.
B V Karanth was unable to come. A film with poor audio showed him talking about the unique characteristic of Indian theatre – the songs. G V Iyer spoke at length about how Karanth took the classical idiom of theatre songs and changed it totally – it had to be speech and song at the same time. He worked with the tones of anything that was at hand, tumblers, stones, sticks… anything.
Three of his songs were sung by Chandru, Kalpana, Sundarraj, Sumati, Rohini and others. The dance group Brahmari performed three Karanth songs, including Purandaradasa’s satricial Donku bala nayakare and Lollalotte. The choreography and dancing, folksy rather than classical, showed liveliness and excellent creative thinking.
It was when Iyer spoke about Hamsageete that the crowd gasped collectively.
He said: “Who do you think made the music of the film? It was not Balamuralikrishna, but T G Lingappa. I wanted B V Karanth to do the background score for the film and use his talent at working with a chorus. But Lingappa was unwilling to let anyone else do the background. So I paid him his dues and he left. Karanth did the background music. Then when it was time to give credit in the titles, he said that he had only done the background score and so it couldn’t be his name. I asked Lingappa and he said I have resigned from the film so you can’t put in my name. Then Balamuralikrishna said, they made the music, but I sang it so well, so you might as well put my name as music director! Which is what we did. And he got the best music award for the film!” G V Iyer was felicitated by G S Shivarudrappa, the prolific Kannada poet.
Nagabharana, with his first-hand knowledge of theatre, kept requesting the artistes to render his favourites and looked so grateful each time they obliged. Everyone hoped to see Karanth on stage, but he is ill and couldn’t make it.
Malathamma sang a couple of songs in a strong voice. She is now 79 and needs a wheelchair. When she was 65 a short circuit from an electric cable on stage paralysed her leg. And she went on stage when she was four! The applause echoed on and on after she sang. You could see where Jayashri had inherited her flamboyant voice throw from. Chiranjeevi Singh, a keen connoisseur of Kannada literature and theatre, honoured her. It is thanks to the likes of Malathamma that people from various walks of life, the young and the old, were in the auditorium.
In his prime, Enagi Balappa was more famous for his female roles than his male ones. He is a legend, and has influenced hundreds of young actors. Justice A D Sadashiva garlanded him. The timbre of his voice and his style brought to mind the music of Pandit Mallikarjun Mansur.
Dr H Narasimhaiah released Bannada Badukina Chinnada Haadugalu (Golden Songs from the Greasepaint Life), an album of theatre songs culled from various plays and music directors. It turned out everyone out in the hall wanted to buy a copy. I have never seen such a clamour for any tape!
Bannada Badukina Chinnada Geethegalu
I have always wanted to listen to theatre songs when I get back from a show. Especially after Chandrashekhar Khambar’s Karimayi. For me, Thaye, sung by B Jayashri and a chorus, is the highpoint of the play. I have seen the play at least 10 times and always just for the song. So imagine my joy when I got my hands on this song.
If you only associated her Car car car from the film America America, then this album will reveal her singing abilities close up. Because this is where her heart has been, in theatre and its songs.
A lullaby from the play Lavakusha by B Puttaswamaiah, Jagadanandana jo jo (music: P Kalinga Rao and B M Seetharama Raju) is sung low and cradles you in a secure world of maternal care.
There are two invocation songs, one a fun number with word play – Gajavadana he rambha from Girish Karnad’s Hayavadana, and the other Sri Ganaraya from the folk source Lakshapati Rajana Kathe.
Neerina mele from Hayavadana is another favourite of mine, both for its tune and its words (You can’t draw pictures on water/You can’t wound it with a sword/And so the river carries no burden of memory…)
Karnad’s Nagamandala has wonderful, haunting tunes, two of which are in this collection. Ena eniidu and Mayada manada bhara. If the tunes don’t get you then the lyrics will.
Kambar’s lovely tunes find a representation in songs like Avva suleavva from Jokumaraswamy.
Some songs are in company drama style, heavy on classical gamakas. Others are more eclectic in approach. All of them are interesting, but the recording has a somewhat distant, big-hall effect. B Jayashri and Pathy Iyer recount the context of each song. Earthy singing, and an invaluable document.
S Suchitra Lata
Published on 16 July 2002
to the editor