Makkal Needhi Maiyam (MNM) founder and actor turned politician Kamal Haasan has courted yet another controversy with his comments on Thyagaraja Swami, the most hallowed of Carnatic composers from the 19th Century.
Thyagaraja Swami along with Muthuswamy Dikshitar (1775-1835) and Syama Sastry (1762-1827) are widely regarded as the holy trinity of Carnatic composers. All of Carnatic music is classified as pre-Trinity and post-Trinity.
During a recent live interaction with another Tamil actor Vijay Sethupathi on 4 May via Instagram, Kamal Haasan made a remark that Thyagaraja was “begging in praise of Lord Rama” inviting the criticism of many distinguished members of the Carnatic music community.
Palghat Ramprasad, a well-known vocalist, has initiated an online petition condemning Kamal Haasan’s comments and seeking an apology from him for his remark.
"Every Carnatic musician, regardless of how they exhibit their affiliation to the outside world, deep within themselves know that they owe every bit of their basic livelihood and professional success, to Sri Thyagaraja’s contribution to Carnatic music," the petition drafted by Ramprasad read.
The petition added "The specific reference to Thygarajar and Lord Rama, also suggests the negatively pointed target on a specific religion/caste, which is indeed an insult to the followers of this faith."
Saying that what the Unchvrithi Thyagaraja did was owing to his bhakti, "and not agendas outside of that", the Ramprasad wrote, "While no one can tarnish the image of a holy soul such as Thyagaraja, least of all by people who conveniently and selectively oppose certain faith-based ideologies, the remark on him is extremely hurtful to an entire section of the society, which perhaps, you may care least about.” he further wrote.
“We artists from the Carnatic music fraternity strongly object to the pointed reference of a holy saint whom we all revere, and demand an apology for your malignant and despicable remarks against him carried out intentionally or otherwise." the petition concluded.
Close to 20,000 people have signed this petition, and this includes some popular names in the Carnatic music field.
Noted Carnatic musician Gayathri Venkataraghavan, who signed the petition, said “Absolutely well said and I fully and completely stand by ever word written in this petition. Unchvriti is a form of worship in itself bringing together the Lord’s devotees in a very unique way .. and those who welcomed Thyagaraja Swami (during his Unchviriti), who has done more than a crore Rama namas knew that they were welcoming one of the greatest Devotees. Such derogatory comments should be condemned.”
Another well-known Carnatic Music artiste Mahathi condemned Kamal Hassan’s statement. “I am an ardent fan of Shri Kamal Hassan’s artistic works, but his recent comment definitely irks. It is so important that an artist of his stature ensures that he chooses the right work” she posted on Facebook.
It is widely believed that Thyagaraja Swami composed 24,000 Carnatic musical pieces though we are now left with about 800 pieces with the rest being irrecoverably lost. It is likely that a good deal of the compositions of Tyagaraja was lost by not being properly recorded and even those recorded, being not properly preserved.
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