When Mysore Dasara Festival Echoed The Notes Of Balamuralikrishna
The Many Lives of Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna: An Authorized Biography. Veejay Sai. Penguin Random House India. 2022. Pages 288. Rs 599.
'M for Murali, M for music, M for money.' Balamuralikrishna says nonchalantly in a documentary produced in the 1980s, while sitting across a desk from ghazal singer Penaz Masani who was anchoring the show.
'And M for Masani,' he adds before they shake hands and burst out laughing. In the same documentary, produced by the Hindustani Bansuri Vidwan Pt Hariprasad Chaurasiya's Vrindavan Gurukul, one can see different shades of Balamuralikrishna.
In fact, just before the quote above, he says, 'Since I have retired from active performances, I decided I should something for other musicians.' The story behind that is a long one.
The early 1980s saw a lot of adulation and criticism coming his way. He was now a 'Sangita Kalanidhi', the prestigious title bestowed upon him by the Music Academy, Madras.
Even that came wading through the waters of controversy stirred by his contemporary veena artiste S Balachander. After that, something within him seems to have snapped.
But the 1980s saw a lot more of Balamuralikrishna on screen than before. He voluntarily took part in a lot of television programmes, interviews, documentaries and even a cameo in a movie after a long gap. It was also a decade that saw a fairly political side to him, unknown earlier.
The famous Mysore Dasara festival saw a grand concert by Balamuralikrishna on 12 October 1980. He was accompanied by H K Narasimha Murthy on the violin, Thanjavur Upendran on the mridangam, Bangalore Venkataram on the ghatam and Sosale Sheshagiri Das on the khanjira.
The Durbar hall of the Mysore palace was crammed with Rasikas. He opened his concert with Tyagaraja’s ‘Sri Ganapathini’ in Saurashtram and followed it up with Dikshithar’s ‘Sri Saraswati Namostute’.
The brilliance of Balamuralikrishna’s concert planning was seen in this. He presented his own composition ‘Nee Saati Neeve Ranga’ in Ragam Chandrika, as a prayer to lord Ranganatha enshrined in the temple at Srirangapattinam near Mysore.
Then came his signature ‘Nagumomu’ followed by a grand Ragam-Taanam-Pallavi in Sunadavinodini, as a tribute to the creator of the Ragam, the great Mysore Vasudevachar. Then came a Dasarapada in Abhogi followed by the famous ‘Oru Naal Podhuma’, just to let the Rasikas enjoy the context of him performing in the ‘Durbar’ hall.
Excellent place and timing to play around musically. The audience and the royal family of Mysore couldn’t have gotten a better musical gift for Navaratri. He was one of the earliest masters of good concert planning. To sing music suitable for any occasion became his forte.
In addition to his usual performances, he had also set up a small institute to propagate music education. Murali Ravali Art Centre was an organization which he began very ambitiously in the 1970s.
Through this organization, he wanted to do a lot in the field of music: from academic research to music concerts, from honouring artistes to producing high-quality content in the field of music and so forth.
In 1980, the Sri Raja Lakshmi Foundation decided to honour Balamuralikrishna with its annual award. The foundation was formed in 1979 and the first award was given to the famous Telugu literary figure Srirangam Srinivasa Rao (1910-83) who wrote under the pen name 'Sri Sri'. Balamuralikrishna was the second awardee.
The invitation of the award ceremony listed the merits of his Murali Ravali Art Centre, saying, 'The only organization which has no barrier irrespective of age, caste and creed, lights the candle eminence is Murali Ravali honour services to humanity, talents in any field of art and literature is: Murali Ravali first to produce the light and sound of honouring fifty great personalities in various walks of life within a span of eight years is: Murali Ravali ever ready to render its yeoman services to the society of art and literature is: Murali Ravali Art Centre.'
At a grand function organized by Sri P V Ramanaiah Raja, the award was given by Rukmini Devi Arundale, the founder president of Kalakshetra in Madras, on 19 November.
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