Pristine Performance of Dr. Pantula Rama

Date/Time:  17h December 2013, 7.00pm
Venue:          Narada Gana Sabha, Alwarpet
Acoustics:    Very good, considering the size and compared to last year!
Ambience:   Kudos for tasteful Décor – The Ad in the center for "Lancore" is eyesore
Comfort:       Very comfortable seating, good view of artists from everywhere
Crowd:          <50 % for the beginning; 10% till the end.
Response:   Good rasikas stayed enjoyed, with loud and appreciative claps

In nutshell: Dr.Pantula Rama is seen more on the center stage of Carnatic Music, in recent years; Her presence in the Chennai concert scene is marked with sincere, sensitive concert presentation. She has a quiet demeanor - her voice is of vintage quality, inlaid with sweetness, expressive of gana, naya aspects very well, and her style, a package of impact and confidence. She has a noticeably cute quiver in her voice, not hindering her confident performance anyway. Accompanied by her husband MSN Murthy on the violin, J.Vaidyanathan on the Mridangam and Dr.Karthick on the Ghatam, the concert though was poorly attended (I wish Chennai rasikas shirk the herd following and start paying attention to new challengers in the scene) was a unique combination of scholarship and aesthetics.

The two-hour concert of Smt. Dr. Pantula Rama at Narada Gana Sabha venue was pristinely blissful from the start to end. Both her demeanor on the stage and selection of songs to present, exhibited class, finesse and personal enjoyment of music conveyed effectively to the audience.

Very much like a vintage pedagogy, she did not care for much touted concert planning tactics in terms of raga balance and the so called "right mix" of Shudda and Pratimadyma ragas and Talaas in the list.

Beginning the concert with Shyamasastri's springy, sprightly Saaveri composition, "Shankari Sankuru", she had both madhyama and duritha kaala swaras with creative "drunken monkey style" of master monks in martial arts movies – apparently lose yet, with firm grip of laya. Here also, she may have her own style of set patterns and may sound repetitive if heard often; but it was quite refreshing to hear new ideas executed with such aplomb.

Following raga essay of Devagandhari was serenely relaxing with the krithi "nAmorAlakim" another favorite of great musician late Shri. Voletti Venkateswarulu garu. A good paced "PalukavademirA" in Devamanohari felt a little bit hurried in Cittaswara portions, almost to the point of losing otherwise impeccable laya control of Pantula. I guess it is inevitable with brisk, lilting, perfectly pitch aligned percussion accompaniment of J.Vaidyanathan on the mridangam and. Dr Karthick on the Ghatam. The tempered metallic tone in Karthick's ghatam is just right amount and was lifting the whole performance a notch high.

Seldom heard piece of Mysore Vasudevachar, "MahathmulE" in a rarely sung ragam "Rishabapriya", was the only prathimadyama raga of the evening, handled as sub-main. The ragam exposition was scholarly in steps and the krithi rendition, though not exactly to the notation published many years back by "Sudesamithran" (and this rasika is used to), was different and enjoyable. I am not sure, if the mahatmulae eduppu with "pS,SRG,S" with a sharp abrupt climb to higher Ga was that pleasing. The swara kanakkus were just about enough, not in excess dose, and pleasingly done. Her husband and an able accompaniment on the violin, MSN Murthy was adeptly accompanying her and was so pleasing to hear. While it is remarkable that Chennai Sabha's are beginning to bring talents from out of state, these artists are to be seen in our sabhas circuits more often. Such pleasing playing by him!

The main of the evening Karharapriya was very unique, carefully crafted, with unheard phrases (all good and imaginative) was already fulfilling and the all time Karharapriya jewel "tsakkani raja maragamu" was even more elegantly presented. "Right proportion" seems to define Pantula's performance. The tani of the percussion duo was combined as it was already close to 9pm and the hall was very poorly filled with predictable 8pm and 8.30pm exodus of South Chennai Maamaas and Maamees leaving the hall (a unique feature of Carnatic Kutcheri scene in Chennai).

J.Vaidyanathan and Karthick made use of that and presented the shortest "Dwani" (percussion duo not duel in concert) of percussion. May be Guinness should take note of it. When not so great percussion artists cling to the opportunity and stretch it as much as they can, these two seasoned veterans were content with a short one.

Quick Paras (Cheline) and a Thillana in Kaanda concluded a truly well executed concert. May her clan come in numbers and fill the concert scene more and more.