Friday, August 9, 2019

D.K.Pattammal - musical treasure beyond appraisals  

In the second and third decades of the last century, four women were born in Tamilnadu who are today considered as stalwarts of music and dance. D.K. Pattammal and M.S.Subbalakshmi, two of the trinity of music,  were born with an age difference of three years. Renowned dancer Balasaraswathi is younger to  M.S. Subbalalakshmi and elder to Pattammal.  The youngest of the trinity of music M.L.Vasanthakumari was born almost ten years later (their birth years being 1916, 1918, 1919 and 1928). These four women came from diverse social backgrounds, but were contemporaries hailing from a relatively small geographical area. They attained excellencies in Karnataka music and Bharatnatya dance.

A review of their brilliance, life and achievements provides an insight into theinherent harmony in our society among class, castes and gender as well as the societalquality of recognizing and celebrating the talent.

M.S. Subbalakshmi, being from a Devadasi background married Sadashiva Ayyar. Born in a traditional family, D.K.Pattammal remained traditional both in her personal and professional life.
Balasaraswathi continued in the remnants of the Devadasi tradition, and M.L.Vasanthakumari hailed from a traditional family and led an economically conservativelife. While the public revere the lives of these four geniuses, there is a tendency in themedia to analyse artists from the western liberal lens. In recent years, complaints ofCarnatic music being bound by males and upper castes are increasingly being heard with trained musicians, like TM.Krishna, actively contributing towards the choral. In thiscontext, there is a need for a reassessment of the lives of celebrated artists. This yearbeing the centenary year of D.K.Pattammal, few aspects of her life have been compiledhere to enable such an assessment.

Pattammal was approached frequently by many to perform at social gatherings. But her father did not find it appropriate to expose his daughter to the general public at thatyoung age. Also, the father of Pattammal was not for recording music and playing it atgatherings without considered selection of venue and audience. He did not want his daughter's voice to enable such disrespect to divine carnatic music. But, finally, thefamily and well wishers of Pattammal came to a decision to encourage Pattammal to sing
in public. Dr. Srinivasan of Kancheepuram, who was the uncle of Sri Iswaran, played akey role in arriving at this consensus decision.

Pattammal's talent was nurtured by her parents, her extended family and her immediateeco-system, including friends and well wishers of her parents. After marriage, herhusband and in-laws were supportive of her music learning and performance.Pattammal lived a traditional life and faced many unique circumstances created by modern circumstances. But her family and surroundings helped her to make decisionswithout disrupting the traditional life she lived and the extraordinary music career. Pattammal always remembered the love and encouragement she received from herfamily members and teachers.
After her marriage, when Pattammal was away on tour, her mother-in-law used to takecare of home. Before going on tour, Pattammal used to buy all the household itemsrequired in her absence. While at home, Pattammal was personally taking care of theneeds of everyone at home, including those of the cattle. Pattammal was in charge ofhousehold activities and was assisted by a cook.

Pattammal was one of the first female playback singers in films. But here too, shemaintained the devotion and dignity of traditional music. She chooses to sing devotionaland patriotic songs. She consciously refused to sing romantic songs. Patriotism wasinherent in Pattammal and she was supportive of nationalism throughout her life. Even at
the age of 80, immediately after the Kargil War, on July 11, 1999 she sang at the 18-hourCarnatic Music Concert conducted in Chennai for the Kargil Soldiers Benefit Fund.During the freedom struggle, when Paattammal was just 20 years old, she sang a songin the movie Thyagabhoomi (1939) which aroused patriotic feelings among people. TheBritish government promptly banned the song and the film.
Palghat Mani Iyer, a legend in Mridangam, did not play for women until 1967. Pattammalhad not thought of approaching him at any time. Mani was appreciative of singersfollowing the tradition. His deep appreciation towards the humility of Pattammal in
adhering to the tradition, even at the heights of her popularity and recognition, movedhim and Palghat Mani Iyer volunteered to play for Pattammal at the Music Academy in1967. In an interview, Pattammal was clearly told that Palghat Mani Iyer's decision to play for her was not because he was the father-in-law of Pattammal’s son.

(This article was originally written in Kannada by Sri. Viveka Sridhara on the occasion ofthe D.K.Pattammal centenary celebrations at Mythic Society, Bangalore on 17th March 2019. The article is translated with little edits by Sridharan.M.K and published Mythic Society journal)

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Movie Review - Article 15 – Socially Damaging but Commercially attractive

Article 15 is a Hindi movie released on 28th June 2019. The movie is directed by Anubhav Sinha, an acclaimed director.  The script is written jointly by Anubhav Sinha and Gaurav Solanki. T he movie was a success with approximately 62 cores rupees revenue by July 2019.  The duration of the film is about 130 minutes and belongs to Crime/thriller genre. Ayushmann Khurana, a well known actor has played lead role in the film.

The plot of the movie is appreciated by almost every review published by Indian as well as foreign media channels as socially relevant.  But, interestingly, not much is written about quality of acting and cinema acting with respect to this film.  It may be noted that there was no controversy over the film Article 15 either before or after the release although it is a contemporary movie dealing with a controversial topic based on events (crimes) widely reported by media.  Specifically, the plot is built in the backdrop of a gang rape of three girl children in a village and a conspiracy around the crime.  The base for the plot is Badaun gang rape reported from Uttar Pradesh in 2014.  The script of the movie toes a politically correct line, but unfortunately contributes to socially detrimental results by sensationalisation of crime and projecting it as an evidence of increasing caste conflict in India. Although Anubhav Sharma is an experienced writer, the theme is influenced by Gaurav Solanki, a smaller but ideologically motivated writer.  

Anubhav Sinha has completed his mechanical engineering degree from Aligarh Muslim University. His scripts, except for the Mulk, revolve around commercial love stories and thrillers.  Although, his movies include stories having complex and unexpected turns often with depressing endings, fiction based scripts were entertaining without any collateral social damages.  The Mulk, for a change, focused on a contemporary subject, but reinforced politically correct perceptions.   Mulk does not accept that family of a terrorist has responsibility and is accountable before law. The movie supports the arguments that exempt family and surroundings of a terrorist from prima-facie enquiry.  Gaurav Solanki has written songs for a couple of movie and a few short stories.  His book on short stories 'Hisar Mein Hahakar' (Hullaballoo in Hisar) has characters of women sexually exploited by men and literary reviewers have criticized about vulgar contents of these stories.  Social Engineering with commercial success is prominently on the agenda of Gaurav Solanki as he has revealed in an interview to The Hindu in the aftermath of release of Article 15 (on July 10th 2019).

Article 15, scripted combinedly by Anubhav Sinha and Garual Solanki, is also contemporary but supports the fake news stories of Badaun gang rape and continues the sensationalisation of the 2014 rape.  The movie substantiates fake narrative of Badaun gang rape of 2014 in Uttar Pradesh that so called upper caste men raped SC/ST girl children. But, in reality, the in Badaun, OBC caste members were involved in committing the crime against the children belonging to other OBC caste groups.

Success of the film Article 15 is expected to open a flood gate of politically correct, socially damaging themes as the subject of commercial movies. Appreciation, money and absence of controversies are clearly visible to film makers and attractive to social engineering projects.