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Home Personality Interviews

Personality Interviews

K J Yesudas

K J Yesudas
Few moments with the living legend Padmabushan Dr K J Yesudas

 

The pen is mightier than the sword. Maybe, but can it capture the essence of a voice supreme? This was the question that nagged me as I was preparing to meet Padmabhushan Dr.K.J.Yesudas for an interview, though I had met him several times as an event manager and a close associate of his. The meeting however, when it happened, changed me. The personality radiated spiritual lustre and grace as he made a humble entrance into the drawing room. The child like countenance adorned by a sincere smile created a congenial atmosphere for an ideal interview.

The following are the excerpts of the interview:

SRS: Dasetta (meaning elder brother, as he is affectionately addressed by many). At the outset, on behalf of Primetime Prism magazine, I congratulate you on the occasion of you receiving the prestigious award of Padmabhushan.

Yesudas: Thank you.

SRS: You are one of the best musicians, the country has ever produced - can you say a few words about music to our readers?

Yesudas: What can I say about music? In fact, no one can do it. I started singing at the age of five, due to 'janma vaasana'(by birth). I have flair for music. What I know about music and how much I know about it, is still a question by itself for me. When I say music, it is an ocean i.e 'sangeetha sagaram'. I think other musicians would also agree with me. I am yet to know about the depth of it as I deem myself as a student even today.

SRS: Music! Is it just mathematical formulae, a type of grammar or is it more of an inner feeling and devotion?

Yesudas: A good question. What we have achieved now is according to mathematical calculations. As far as language is concerned, it becomes tough. Language is to communicate. One need not worry about grammar. Give importance to feelings through devotion. What counts is an individual presentation. There may be flaws. Only one who knows the standard can evaluate that. Music therefore, is a perfect balance between all the elements that you mentioned and essentially along with a personal touch of devotion to it.

SRS: Even at 60 plus, your voice remains the same. How do you safeguard your voice? What is your advice to the upcoming artists to preserve the same?

Yesudas: Preserve what you have been blessed with. Think of god and count your blessings and thank him for blessing you with a talent. It is all because of papa, punya and karma that things happen. If I am able to sing, it is by god's grace. I maintain it. Controls over habits contribute to preserving the voice. What ever doesn't suit you and disagrees with the constitution, give it up - like food habits, etc, and continue to practice. The grace of god will take care of the rest. Thank your parents who contribute to achieve your aim.

SRS: Can you share with us an unforgettable experience of yours?

Yesudas: Ofcourse, my first concert at Tanjavur during Thyagaraja festival was a great experience. It is still fresh in my memory. Actually it was my father's dream come true, whose wish was that I should render atleast one kirthana at Tanjavur.

SRS: What is your opinion about the present film music and composers as compared to the past ones?

Yesudas: Nothing can be blamed. For instance, when you talk about the dress code in the olden days, it was totally different. Nowadays oh! I reserve my comments. What I intend to say at this juncture is that one should not deviate from culture and tradition. Fashion is laudable to some extent alone. Improvements in music are commendable, but not deviation from traditional music.

SRS: Your opinion about 'ahimsa'(non-violence)?

Yesudas: Everywhere himsa(violence) is prevailing. Ahimsa should be cultivated in every individual. It means - one should practise non-violence manasa, vacha and karmana - as it is the ultimate solution for a peaceful life. It binds people with love and affection. Hinduism preaches it. It was long ago written in our shastras and puranas that our mind is the monitor. Its unerring guidance should be carried out well through good speech and good deeds. Thus this world would become a peaceful place to live in. This preaches for universal brotherhood, understanding and peace.

SRS: Primetime Prism is entering the 7th year in circulation. On this occasion what is your message to the readers?

Yesudas: I pray the almighty for universal peace. Hope these articles and interviews will go a long way in inspiring one and all. I wish the readers good luck and my best wishes to them. Thank you!

 

Roop Kumar Rathod

Roop Kumar Rathod
Singer with a difference

 

He wanted to be different! He wanted to carry on his father's legacy! He wanted to make a difference! He has done all that and more. That's Roop Kumar Rathod for you, who has carved his own special niche in the world of music, be it ghazals or playback singing. 

His is a voice that stands out amongst the rest, a voice that stirs your heart. Who can forget the award winning song 'Sandese aate hain' from the film 'Border', which made and still makes many a person shed tears for their loved ones protecting our country. 
Roop Kumar Rathod is a singer to reckon with now but his first love still remains playing the tabla, a passion he gave up in 1984 to start a new career in the field of singing. Born into a family of musicians, Roop Kumar choose to continue his father's legacy and learnt the tabla unlike elder brother Shravan Rathod (of the Nadeem-Shravan duo) who took up music composing or younger brother Vinod Rathod who took to playback singing. He played the tabla for Shyam Benegal's 'Discovery of India', for ghazals, Qawaalis, Bhajans sung by Lata Mangeshkar, performed on stage. Before long he realized that this was not his goal, so he gave his first love to enter the world of ghazals. Soon after carving his niche in ghazals, he established himself as a good playback singer to reckon with, while experimenting with fusion music and giving music concerts with Gurtu and others. Constantly donning different roles, he believes that learning is a never-ending process, which is why he still learns the nuances of ghazal singing from his guru Ustad Niyaz Ahmed Khan. 

Fusion music is a culmination of two different cultures, says Rathod when asked about his perception of fusion music. 'Nowadays, there is no language in fusion you hear, there is no interlink between the music which is very essential which is why most fusion music you hear sounds like confusion,' says Rathod. 'Melody is essential for fusion' he says adding that they improvise where necessary. 

Fusion does have a limited target audience agrees Rathod and says that pop concerts generally target the older generation, whereas fusion music has a very limited selected audience that likes to experiment with music. He goes on to add that fusion music is 'only a star craze' and has more 'curiosity value' to it where the public is curious to listen what the fusion musicians have to offer. More awareness about fusion music is needed, says Rathod adding that fusion music is not only about music but also about lyrics. 

Rathod's fans can look forward to his latest album titled 'Bandish', which is a classical album where he has sung 200-year old compositions of Mir Taki Mir, that hits the stands in April. And very soon a romantic album with wife Sonali. His latest films include 'Baaz', 'Jism', 'LOC', 'Amrita Preetham' etc. It was Rathod's third visit to the city and he still has a big question in mind. Why are Hyderabadis so reserved? Why don't they open up and enjoy themselves during the concerts here? He finds it surprising that inspite of knowing the culture ragaas, music etc, Hyderabadis don't enjoy themselves, whereas westerners danced, sang along during their concerts abroad. Well, there's only one way to find out if they will dance and sing along. Hold another Roop Kumar Rathod concert in the city.

Balakrishna Prasad

Balakrishna Prasad
Living Legend

 

Sri Garimella Balakrishna Prasad has redefined the art of rendering devotional music. One can emphatically say that he is an uncrowned King in the field of devotional music as his soulful renditions are vibrant, vivacious and virtuous filled with bhakti and bhava. Sri Balakrishna Prasad, a Diploma holder in carnatic vocal music and a graded artist of AIR has been into the fold of Annamacharya project as a special graded vocal artist. His initial speaks about him as a Gana Gandharva.

Following are excerpts from an interview to Prism.

Jayanthi Subramanian (JS): As a devoted disciple, tell us about your Gurus.

Balakrishna Prasad (BKP) : My first and foremost Gurus are my beloved parents Late Smt Krishnaveni and Late Sri Garimella Narasimha Rao, who was a music teacher as well as a 'Vaggeyakara'. Then I had training under 'Sangeetha Kalanidhi', Sri Nedumuri Krishna Murthy Garu. Later I had some lessons under Padmasri Dr. Mangalampalli Bala Murali Krishna. Infact, I was greatly inspired in my childhood by his soul stirring music. I had the privilege of being a disciple of Prof. D Pasupathy for some time.

JS: Can you tell us about your accomplishments as an artist?

BKP: I have sung more than 500 Annamacharya Sankeerthanas in nearly 150 ragas, covering all styles viz., carnatic classical, light classical, folk and light music. I have even composed music. 

JS: That's interesting! Can you brief us about your compositions?

BKP: I have composed more than 200 krithis, varnams & thillanas. I have also composed music for more than 300 songs of Annamacharya apart from hundreds of other modern lyrics. I have set about 300 krithis to more than 100 ragas. I have composed 50 Krithis on Lord Vinayaka & exclusive Krithis on Navagrahas too.

JS: Have you got the script of your compositions published?

BKP: Yes, I am deeply indebted to TTD for publishing the following: 
v Annamacharya Sankeerthana swara Samputi (Telugu script)
v Annamaiah Sankeerthana Chandrika (Tamil script)
v Annamaiah Nrisimha Sankeerthanam (Telugu Script)
v Annamaiah Sankeerthana Saurabham (Telugu Script)
v "Krishna Ravali" in 2 volumes which contains a collection of lyrics set to the popular style of light music.

JS: Sir, it is so nice that this interview could throw light on you as a great Vaggeyakara too.

BKP: I also feel very happy about it. My father was a vaggeyakara. His blessings have been showered on me to become one. I would like to make a special mention about my wife Smt. Radha who has been a towering support to me. 

JS: Do you have any innovations to your credit?

BKP: Well, I have created a raga called 'Sundara Ranjani'. I intend creating many more with dedication.

JS: would you mind telling us about the albums released?

BKP: Here I would like to stress upon god's grace but for which, I would not have released nearly one hundred pre-recorded cassettes, some LP records, CDs which contain Annamacharya Sankeerthanas, live classical music concerts and Lalitha Sangeetham.

JS: Have you given concerts abroad too?

BKP: I have performed under the joint sponsorship of 'Sapana' (Sri Annamacharya Project of North America, Chicago) & 'Svasa' (Sri Venkateswara Society of America Los Angels) in 1997.

JS: We would like to know about the awards and honours that you received.

BKP: Hmmm…. During my visit to USA, I was awarded 'Annamacharya Vidwanmani' in Chicago & 'Annamacharya Nada Jyothi' in Los Angels. The World Teacher Trust, which is an International Organisation of Visakhapatnam, honoured me with 'Master MN Award' recognizing my extraordinary service in propogation of Annamacharya songs. When I performed at Vijayawada for seven day 'Sankeerthana Yagnam' (sang 216 songs), I was honoured with a title 'Gana Kala Visarada'. The academy of fine arts of Tirupati awarded 'The spirit of excellence' in 1999 during their Golden Jubilee celebrations of Indian Independence. Andhra Samskrithika Samithi of Hosuru Taluq honoured me with 'Uthama Purusha' award in 2000. The Delhi Telugu Academy conferred the title "Enchanting Singer" in 2001.

JS: Can you share your experiences of your concerts of great value (like Sangeetha Yagnam).

BKP: I deem it a great privilege performing for a unique 10 day programme called 'Annamacharya Trisathi Samkeerthana Yagnam' on a single dais singing 300 Annamacharya Kirthanas in 108 ragas from 3rd February to 13th February in 2001. At Tirupati, on another such occasion, in a mega event sponsored by TTD & Academy of Fine Arts, I was conferred the title 'Annamacharya Sankeerthana Mahathi' and was given a gold dollar of Lord Venkateswara and conducted another seven day 'Sankeerthana yagnam' at Visakhapatnam in 1997.

JS: Prasad garu, thank you very much sir for your valuable interview and we wish you all the best in your future endeavours. We wish your son, Garimella Anila Kumar too, who is coming up to your expectations as an accomplished artist.

BKP: Thank you very much.

 

Nataraja Ramakrishna

Nataraja Ramakrishna
Inerview with a great Guru and a visionary

 

Bharatakalaprapoorna Dr Nataraja Ramakrishna, a connoisseur of arts India is proud of, especially Andhra Pradesh. But for his dedication and devotion the 2000-year-old spiritual art of Andhras, Andhra Natyam, would have been a dead art in the pages of history. Responsible for reviving long forgotten art forms like Kuchipudi, Perini, the dance tradition of the Kakatiya dynasty during the 10th century, and ancient spiritual dances Agama Nartanams and Navajanardana Parijatam, he is one of those few artistes who have dedicated his life to dance. For him, dance is his life partner; disciples are his children while his inheritance is his knowledge of art of dance.

Bestowed with many an award and reward, the great Guru Nataraja Ramakrishna is still a very simple, warm and humble person. A rarity these days! Fixing up an appointment with him was no problem. "What do you want to talk about to me?" he questions with surprise.

Nevertheless, I am at his humble abode the next day. A whiff of sandalwood agarbathi scent greeted me as he welcomed me into his house. Sitting with a massive photo of the Birla Mandir overlooking him he took out his notepad to give me the exact dates of his long journey that made him Nataraja Ramakrishna.

Born into a noble family of Andhras in Bali in 1933, he left his family and property for the love of art since he father did not approve of it. Spending his boyhood in Ramakrishna Math at Madras and Mahatma Gandhi's ashram he soon left and came in touch with great gurus like Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai, Vedantam Laxminarayana Sastry, Smt Naidupeta Rajamma and Pendyala Satyabhama under whom he learnt various forms of art.

The turning point in his life was his dance performance before the royal assembly consisting of scholars, poets, art critics and the elite of Nagpur city. Since then he learnt various languages and dance and music forms and became an erudite scholar in sastras and a linguist in five languages. Patronisers of his art included many, even the great Maratha ruler of that time.

Dr Nataraja Ramakrishna traversed in all the traditions of dance art in India, studied and practiced them. After careful study of all the dance forms he came to the conclusion that the dance art of Andhra Pradesh was the richest of them all, which made him settle in the land of his forefathers. In those days, it was taboo to witness or learn dance. It was at this crucial stage that Nataraja Ramakrishna took up the task of propagating the great divine art of Andhra Pradesh, which soon spread all over the state. But for his ardent endeavours this great treasure of art would have been lost forever in the annals of Andhra history. He established Nrityaniketan in 1955 at Hyderabad to impart training.

A believer that folk art forms are as important as the classical forms of art helped propagate Chindu Yakshaganam, an ancient folk form of Telangana and revived other folk arts like Tappetagallu of Srikakulam and Vizianagaram districts, Veera Natyam and Garagalu of East and West Godavari districts, Devadasi dance and dance tradition of temples performing Adhyatma Ramayana. He also helped and encouraged fold dance artistes like Dommaras, Guravayyalu, Urumulu and Veedi Bhagavatulu.

The great dancer, scholar is the sole artiste who practiced Satvikabhinaya, the soul of Indian dance art and is the first artiste in Andhra Pradesh to write and compose the story of Lord Venkateshwara as a Nrutya Nataka (ballet), in which he introduced all the dance and music traditions in ritual, classical, folk and tribal forms of the state.

Any other person who has achieved so much and done so much for dance would have rested by his laurels. But not Nataraja Ramakrishna. He still has the same zest to pursue his other dreams. First and foremost on his list is to make everybody realise that it was the Golconda ruler Abdul Asam Tani Shah who was responsible for promoting Kuchipudi. "It is because of him that we are now proud of our dance, Kuchipudi. But his name is forgotten. This is a very great dream of mine and I have already requested the government to start a music college in his name in Old City," he says. He also requested the Telugu University to put a statue of Tani Shah at the Kuchipudi College and plans to write to the State Government soon to get the mortal remains of Tani Shah from Aurangabad to Hyderabad.

Another dream of his is to throw light on yet another forgotten person and her art. "Padmavati Charana Chakravarty, wife of poet Jaidev of Puri, Jaganath who composed Ashta Padalu, is an Andhra dancer who hails from Seluru in Nalgonda district. I want to bring her back into the limelight," he adds.

One of his dreams saw the light of day when after five years of hard work on April 15th this year Dr. Anjaneya Reddy, CMD, APTDC, declared Rs 5 crore for building a cultural village in memory of Taramati and Premavati, great artistes of the Mohd. Adul Qutb Shah era in Hyderabad. "Such great artistes do not exist anywhere else in the world and they have been forgotten. So I felt they need to be brought back into the limelight. Such was the greatness of the ruler that being a Muslim he patronised these Hindu artistes and their art. My wish is fulfilled and I am glad I could help," he says gladly.

More dreams on his list are to make 500 artistes dance in a never-seen-before splendid performance at the cultural village of Taramati and Premavati, which will be ready by February 1st next year and make Yakshaganas propaganda in villages. Yet another one is to make 150 Perini dancers, young and old, perform at the cultural festival in Warangal to be held soon.

Requests for a composition by Chindu artistes (so that 100 of them can dance with their dapus in February), invitations for conducting seminars, visits by people to learn more about various art forms from him etc are a routine schedule for the great dancer.

Recognising his great contribution to reviving Andhra Natyam, the Telugu University has included the age-old dance form as a subject for MA this year.

Nataraja Ramakrishna, a person who you cannot help but look up to. "These are a few aims and dreams in my life for now," he says with a smile that lights up his face. 'For now' is definitely not surprising coming from him. Ready to leave after the pleasant interview, he stops me to bless me with a parting gift leaving me touched by his persona.

R P Patnaik

R P Patnaik
Music Creator par excellence

 

A rainy evening, damp roads and weather drove us to the infamous Ramanaidu Studios in the picturesque location at Jubilee hills.We climbed the steep stairs that lead to the recording theatre at the studios, looking out for someone whom I had never seen or met before. But, I had heard about him a lot and did hear some of his quality music too. As we entered the long corridor that portrayed framed photographs of various well known artists of yester years in the field of music, I started recognizing….........aah.........…Ghantasala Venkateshwara Rao.........................….SP Balasubramaniam…......Illayaraja......."And that's RP" exclaimed my friend!

A man in his early 30's, well built, short hair, smiling face with a French beard was in the photograph. By the very first looks of his photograph, one would never even think of, that this man has carved a niche for himself in a short span of his lifetime, in the film industry and stands witness to some vibrant and quality music in Tollywood. As we entered the recording area, we were escorted to a seating area and then entered the man who looked extremely simple in his dressing, style and his talks. He was in midst of a recording and hence it was a quick but a memorable chat.

The following are excerpts from an exclusive interview with the leading Music Director of Tollywood - R P Patnaik.

RK: Tell me more about yourself

RP: I am R P Patnaik! What else do you want to know?

RK: I heard that you are a 'scientist' by qualification? Is that right?

RP: Yes, more or less; I am an MSc - Space Physics by qualification.

RK: How come? From astronomics to music??

RP: Not really?? Let me ask you a question. Have you done your Journalism (which I incidentally did not)?

RK: No I did not!?!

RP: That's the answer. Everybody is what he is. Qualifications do not matter. I understood that immediately.

RK: Who is your favourite music director?

RP: (Instantly) Illayaraja

RK: What is your personal preference of music? Rock, Jazz, Disco….

RP: See, I like music which has depth in it. If you notice, that is what differentiates my music with others. You see a certain degree of depth in all my songs.

RK: Have you worked in any other language movies till date?

RP: No, I haven't. But I have a couple of offers on hand and I am working on them too. So, hopefully there should be a couple of other language movies with my music released by the year end.

RK: Lot of producers insist (especially in dubbed or remake movies) that the originally hit tune from the other language be retained as it was a major hit. I such case, don't you feel that your imagination is being tampered with. You are being limited to something?

RP: You are right. We have lot of such situations. But you see, producer is the God for us. He is the one who is paying all of us here. So we go by what he wants. And then, no producer would want a tune if it is not good!!

RK: RP, did you undergo any formal training in music?

RP: Not really, I can't say I underwent a formal training but since childhood, I was always interested in music and the major plus point with me is, I learn things fast. Technology is the in thing and I adapt to it fast. Sometimes I understand things faster than my sound engineer! That's what sees me on the top.

RK: Lastly RP, what is your message to the upcoming artists?

RP: Work hard and the world is open for you.

With this, the master was back in his recording room where he was creating some wonderful background score for "Jayam", a Telugu film which was then yet to be released.

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