Sikkil Mala Chandrasekhar’s concert for brother-in-law Vinu Seshadri’s wedding last Friday (April 18, 2014), was one of the best flute concerts I’ve heard in recent times. She started with a brief shlokam and quickly moved to the traditional Shankarabharanam Adi Tala varnam of Vina Kuppayyar Saami Ninne Kori with some rapid swaras. A sedate rendition of the ultra-popular Srimannarayana sort of made me resign myself to think that this was going to be a “typical kalyana cutcheri” concert. But Mala wasn’t going to allow us in the audience to stereotype her concert, as I was to find out.
The next item was a brief Varamu alapana followed by Manasuloni/Tunaipurindarul. A briskly rendered Raghuvara Nannu of Tyagaraja with elaborate niraval and swaras in that tautly maintained kaalapramaanam was testimony to her vidwath and professionalism. Muthuswamy Dikshitar’s Annapurne Visalakshi was preceded by a beautiful Sama alapana (I was hearing an alapana in Sama after a very long time).
The pièce de résistance was the elaboration of Brindavana Saranga and an exquisite rendition of Rangapura Vihara. I remember my Guru Shri TRS remarking on the dramatic opening of Rangapuravihara – “Look how Dikshitar has started the kriti on the taara sthaayi rishabham! What a wonderful instantaneously effective beginning to be sure!” Amen to that.
The surprise was the elaborate swara kalpana for Rangapuravihara at the pallavi line. After a few rounds of chatusram, Mala moved to Tisram and finished with a flourish, capped by a delectable korvai. She graciously allowed Usha Rajagopalan to respond to that long and intense tisram round and Usha true to her mettle responded superbly. Vanchatonu in Karnaranjani followed as a filler where Mala injected all the combinations in the famous chittaswaram. Mohanarama was the main item with an elaborate alapana (the alapana took me back to when I heard Mala for the first time – she was a part of a veena-venu-violin ensemble and had played Mohanam followed by Tyagaraja’s Maatimaatiki in New Delhi in the year 1992). She recalled this concert clearly much to my gratification!
A swashbuckling korvai that incorporated both Chatusra and Khanda gatis paved the way for a brilliant taniyavardhanam by Chidambaram S. Bala Shankar and Anirudh Athreya. The korappu was done completely in Khanda gati, and much to my surprise and delight so was the mohra and the final korvai. It sounded different and unique. When I asked Shri Bala Shankar he said that was inspiration from great masters and Azhaga Nambi Pillai used to play such a mohra and korvai often.
The mandatory Kurai Ondrum Illai followed by Maitreem Bhajata brought this very professional, high standard, strictly undiluted concert to a close.