The maestro had to yield. The boy was insistent. When he saw the wide, imploring eyes of the boy, he was reminded of his own self when he was that age. He was used to pleading, nay, begging, For a few crumbs of moldy bread. Until there came along a great man , who turned his life around. Yes, for him he was really the Great Father descended from heaven for his sake. He lifted him from out of the filth and made him his beloved son, along with a few other such ‘ le miserables ‘..He fed them and taught them divine music.besides the virtues of humility, hard work and compassion. But what did he do in return? He felt a revulsion towards himself..
He leads the boy towards the diwan, asks him to sit down, seats himself also and takes up the tambura and strums the base note.
He decides to start the session with an invocation to the God of Good Beginnings, Ganesa. “The bright-looking boy already knows a bit of music. So why no start with a distinctive Raga. Let me make it, Kanakangi, the first of the 72 basic Ragas ( 72 melakartas).. Soft and soothing, but still bright and uplifting”, he decides. Run-of-the-mill is not for him.
He starts to aalap, that is, delineate the ragaa tentatively, before he takes up the lyric proper.
“Oh, God! That wretched one peg too many, the last evening And then the tempting spicy food and to top it, the cassatta cake he had the last night.”
The boy coughs discreetly to draw his attention to the discordance. The maestro, smiles with embarassment and clears his throat, and wills himself to be faithful to the raga. He starts the alap afresh and looks at the boy for his approval. The boy nods and they begin to sing together.
They are sitting on the first floor of a big mansion, in a shaded verandah, visible from the grounds of the neighboring lot,There is a humble tiled house in the centre of the grounds. The sad-looking lady of the house, wearing a heavy ochre and red sari peeps out, looks at the young boy seeking to learn from the maestro.The lady has covered her head discreetly, as though she preferred to remain incognito. She goes inside and offers aarati to her deities
The duo in the verandah of the neighboring mansion, start singing in right earnest.
Another good looking lady emerges from a room in the mansion, holding a mug, of bed coffee, or may be something stronger. She looks with a bit of interest at the duo singing, especially at the handsome young boy with the sharp voice, singing in tandem with her jaded live-in companion.
The boy sings,Guruguhagrajam, agrapoojyam, “the elder brother of the great Guru who taught his own Father, the one who ought to be respected and bowed to, first ” and touches the feet of the celebrity sitting before him. The elder man touches the boy’s head to bless him. Stops short of ruffling his hair.
The lady in the ochre saree, comes out of the house walks to the basil plant, waters it reverently, and anoints herself with a few drops of the water, praying silently to the deity of the sacred plant to purify her wayward husband and bless her and her child.
She goes inside the house, brings some rice to sort in a winnow, and sits at a vantage point so that she is in a position to see the boy and the man. She looks up with tenderness at the duo singing above in the neighboring mansion.
She remembers how dear her son was, to her husband’s brothers. Well they were also adapted and brought up by her noble father-in-law . Her boy especially was very dear to the youngest of the brothers and his wife. Pity, the young couple had all the money in the world, but no children of their own.
The lady dreams of the day her boy would sit with his uncle and aunt and the boy and his uncle sing this very song together, while the uncle in addition accompanied on the percussion.
She looks forward to the day her prodigal husband casting off the parasites who corrupted him and returns to her and the two together sing this very song in praise of The Lord of the Beginnings while their precocious son, resplendent in glittering raiments, looking like the Lord’s younger brother, dances around scintillatingly with happiness, now like an young Siva intent on creating the universe afresh, and then like a little Krishna teasing his mother Yasoda, prancing hither and thither like an ebullient young colt.
The song comes to the reference to Aanjaneya, The boy gestures to his mentor that he reveres him as he does The Lord. The mentor is embarrassed and shakes his head. No, he is not so pure as The Great Lord.
The lady in the ochre saree, begins to pick out and throw away small clods of dirt and pieces of rock from the rice. The rice seemed to be adulterated. She can not tolerate any adulterants in the rice she eats. Neither can she, any such in her own life, any more. They have made her life miserable.
The lady in the mansion is very much impressed by the boy’s performance. He seemed to hold a great promise..She speaks to her manager on the possibility of roping the youngster into a long term exclusive contract.
The singing is coming to a close. The maestro looks around, notices the manager confabulating with the lady in the mansion . He shakes his head across, with disgust.
This scene is from the movie, Sruthi Layalu, directed by, K.Viswanath. The roles of the mentor and the boy were played by Dr.Raja Sekhar and Mandolin Srinivas. The sad lady in the ochre saree was played by Sumalatha. You can watch the song at the following URL.
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Sruthilayalu – Sri Gananadham Bhajamyaham
Here is another clip this of Jesu Das rendering in a public concert, this soothing song of Tyagaraja in the rare melam Kanakangi.. This complete (melakarta) raaga, when ever I try to sing it, brings here and there, into my mins Assaveri, i find, for obvious reasons.