/* START Google Analytics Code*/ /* END of Google Analytics Code */ A home called "Parvathi": The Jewel in the Mysore Crown - Ashthana Vidwan before 16 ? - Mysuru’s legendary Veena Maestro : V. Doreswamy Iyengar

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Jewel in the Mysore Crown - Ashthana Vidwan before 16 ? - Mysuru’s legendary Veena Maestro : V. Doreswamy Iyengar

Galaxy of artists honor the memory of T. Chowdiah on his birth Centenary in 'Parvathi' 1994

[ L to R: Vidwan S.Mahadevappa (Violinist, and father of Mysore Nagaraj and Mysore Manjunath); Vidwan U.Srinivas (Mandolin); Vidwan V. Deshikachar (Flutist, and younger brother of V. Doreswamy Iyengar); Vidwan Titte Krishna Iyengar (Vocalist); Host K. Srikantiah; Ambarish (Actor and grandson of T.Chowdiah); Vishnuvardhan (Actor); Vidwan V. Doreswamy Iyengar (Veena artiste); Vidwan T.K. Murthy (Mridangam); Vidwan R. Chandrasekhariah (Vocalist ---of Mysore Brothers); Prof. R. N. Doreswamy (Veena artiste); Vidwan M. A. Narasimhachar (Vocalist); Vidwan Prof V. Ramaratnam (Vocalist, Senior disciple of T.Chowdiah)]


Those fortunate to be called Mysoreans hear all their life, wherever they live, about the lovely associations that the word “Mysore” resonates with among the cognoscenti. Things that can be readily listed are the flavoursome Mysore rasam, the fragrance of Mysore jasmine flowers, the refinement of Mysore silk, and the sweetness of the Mysore Veena.

More than anyone else in the 20th century, it was Mysore V. Doreswamy Iyengar who symbolised the sweetness of Mysore Veena. He was also a dear and admired friend of the leading Carnatic and Hindustani musicians of that era.

When Doreswamy Iyengar performed at the Madras Music Academy after receiving the Sangeetha Kalanidhi in 1984, a proud Mysorean eye-witness (this chronicler) recalls how the hall was filled with music’s Who’s Who with the legendary MSS and Semmangudi sitting in the first row. He also recalls the brilliant Begada and Behag that he played that day.

Foregoing one's veena for the mike?
V. Doreswamy Iyengar speaks of Chowdiah
Flanked by Vidushi M.L. Vasanthakumari and K. Srikantiah

[ courtesy: http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl1423/14231000.htm ]

“… Some time after this, a music festival was conducted in Mysore at the Bidaram Krishnappa Hall. The concerts were by senior musicians like Ariyakudi (Ramanuja Iyengar), Chembai (Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar) and Semmangudi (Srinivasa Iyer). I was surprised to see a 14-year-old featured among these giants. Somewhat irked by this choice, I decided to leave the hall when it was his turn. Anyway it was close to eight and dinner time. But the boy began to play with such confidence that I was taken aback. He did so well that I sat through the performance, convinced of his genuine talent. "

“Do you know that the Maharaja made him the youngest asthana vidwan in Mysore state?”

“No ego, no self-importance. He wore them lightly, and remained simple, sweet-natured and uncomplicated all his life. He had no bad habits.”

“…He could give up food, but not music...”

“…Doreswamy had sweetness and melodiousness. Many people don't know how to play the veena. They bang on it as if it were a harmonium and end up producing noise. Venkatagiriappa was a good man. He allowed his disciple to develop in his own way, doing what came naturally to him…”

“…Doreswamy belonged to a family that had an essential nobility and humility in temperament….’


"...now if you ever find yourself in Doreswamy Iyengar's house you will see an old photograph...it is that of my father (K. Puttu Rao) honoring Doreswamy's Guru, Veena Vidwan Venkatagiriyappa in our home "Parvathi"... both Doreswamy and I were so young...like with Lalgudi our friendship started as teenagers...you see us seated on the 'jhamkhana'(floor spread) there..."

"... ours was all brotherhood ... friendship ... whatever you may want to call it ... during the early '50s and '60s we all used to meet together... myself, V.Doreswamy Iyengar, M.Cheluvarayaswamy...we used to go to this 'Galli (by-lane) Hotel' in K.R.Mohalla... we all loved this 'set' dosa' [ note: a specialised Mysore delicacy of the popular Dosa, stacked up like pancakes, served with mouthfuls of distinct soft white buttermilk butter called 'benne' with a bowl of 'sambar' to dip into ] ... after this meal we would proceed to R.K. Narayan's house in Lakshmipuram for a long chat about music and musicians... sometimes Thitte Krishna Iyengar and M. A. Narasimhachar would join us. R.K. Narayan would play his spool tape recordings of Karaikudi brothers' veena recital and other such recordings of the old veterans...these meetings would go on till about 2 pm"

"... the same friendship continued even in the recent years (the '90s) when I took up partial residence in Bangalore...V. Doreswamy Iyengar would regularly take walks from his Malleswaram residence to the Indian Institute Of Science. On his way back, he would sometimes drop in at our house in Sadashivanagar. After breakfast and a long hearty chat, I would drop him back to Malleshwaram....sometimes I myself would drop in at his 18th cross residence. During these meetings we would have long, relaxed chats about Music, Musicians, T. Chowdiah, his dynamism and would recollect many anecdotes..."

[ Courtesy: Gowri Ramnarayan with Ravi Sharma in http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl1423/14230990.htm ]

“Doreswamy Iyengar revered his forebears in the tradition so much that he painstakingly gathered the compositions of Veena Seshanna and popularised them. He attributed his good fortune to his guru's blessings and, as his guru lay bedridden before death, he played Bhairavi day after day at Venkatagiriappa's command."

“He was uncompromising in his principles. He refused to play at weddings because they were venues of noise and distraction inimical to music. He was even against amplification because it robbed music of its nuances and often distorted the tone. He eschewed an aggressive style and strident fingering techniques, which made for easy popularity. And though connoisseurs found that with its preponderance of meettus (plucking), the Mysore style lacked fine-shaded gamakas and contouring anuswaras, they accepted Doreswamy Iyengar's music as smooth, sweet and satisfactory. He had the gentle touch of a cultured mind. His modesty and charm won friends for him everywhere. "

As we hinted in some of our earlier postings, we have come to love vintage things for now. So, we leave you once again with a very vintage concert from April 17, 1978 in "Parvathi" by the great maestro; sweet sounds, no contact mike as the Vidwan refused to wear one, Philip spool clarity as it was then ! Also performing, are Vidwan M. Chandrasekharan on Violin; Vidwan Erode Gururajan on Mridangam and Vidwan Manjunath on Ghatam.

[01-Shivashiva-Pantuvarali-Thyagaraja 02-Marivere-Ananda Bhairavi - Shyama Shastry 03-Inta Kannanandamemi-Bilahari- Thyagaraja 04-Brochevarevarura-Khamach-Vasudevachar 05-RTP-Kambhoji & Ragamalika 06-Vishweshwara-Sindhu bhairavi Bhajan- Swati Tirunal ]


As we poured through “Parvati” photographs looking for things connected with Vidwan Shri. Doreswamy Iyengar, we espied a photograph of K. Puttu Rao’s only daughter, Smt. Lakshmi Murthy ( nee Subbulakshmi ), playing a Veena in the center of an orchestra. The photograph (reproduced below) was supposed to be that from many decades ago, shot in a river valley project in Bihar, a place signified as a source of pride for Nehru as he strove to usher India into a modern era with the help of American engineers from the Tennessee Valley Authority.

While she did not make it into any professional rank, K. Puttu Rao's daughter chose to remember her Guru (Doreswamy Iyengar) in the only way she could, through self practice of the things he had taught her. As time tends to hang heavily in such lonely river valley projects, Smt. Subbalakshmi strove to fill in her time by collecting any lady with any fragmentary knowledge of music to weave musical patterns together from a Thyagaraja or Dikshitar composition, not withstanding the hybrid nature of such a process. There was supposedly an American player too in their group, a Ms. Mary Lou Williams, who would bring in her accordian for occasional lessons in Carnatic notes ( we couldn't find a picture for Ms. Mary Lou, so we are just sending a shout out to her in any corner of the world by mentioning her name )

We soon arrived at an interesting sequel connected to Puttu Rao's daughter and a Veena ( somewhat sad in the end ) . When a newly arrived engineer called Chidambaram moved into the river valley project from Madras, he came with a passionate weakness in wanting to one day see his young daughter shine as brilliantly as a Saraswati through the Veena. Coming to realize that there was a local person with somewhat of a connection to the great Vidwan Doreswamy Iyengar, he approached the lady in question and expressed his intense yearning for owning a Mysore Veena for his daughter. The lady, not sure what made her accede, did however consent and found herself executing the job very personally, hand carrying the best Veena she could buy in Mysore and protecting it like a baby all the way from Mysore to Bihar, all through the tedium of a long train journey through a scorching Indian summer and presenting it as a free gift to the man, accepting nothing in return. Needless to say, she made a certain father delirious in his joy.

Time, however, moved on; the happy man called Mr. Chidambaram found himself soon transferred to Calcutta. It was then that Smt. Subbalakshmi’s only daughter, still a child of seven, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The local doctors made a definite pronouncement. The child under any circumstances, had to be removed to Vellore hospital immediately, to be operated by none other than the brain specialist of the day, Dr. Chandy. This caused the young parents to panic. It was one thing to have so sick a child on your hands. It was another to procure reservations so suddenly on such a long journey? You had to first change trains in Calcutta which might include ( when you are in a hurry ), waiting out entire days for a reservation in the busiest train station in the world. Where would they stay in Calcutta? With nothing to hope for but to just chance it out at the railway station, waiting out time within a waiting room or maybe even spreading it out on the floor of a filthy platform , they left for Calcutta pinning their hopes on the one above to show them the way.

It was when they arrived at Howrah, that a very eventful situation transpired. As their train pulled into the city, a man had simultaneously arrived to confirm train reservations for his family’s return from Chennai. As the lady Subbalakshmi,a sick child and her husband wended their way, not sure where and what they would be doing, they happened to bump into the person who had just come in. As each lifted their face to apologize, there was a brief pause and then a mutual gasp of recognition. The man proved to be none other than the Mr. Chidambaram of earlier times. Pleasantries aside, each came to recognize the reason for the other being there. Mr. Chidambaram acknowledged mentally the presence of a sick child and the predicament of a family uncertain of where they would spend their night. Hadn’t Saraswati once sent this same lady as a succor when he needed a Veena? That was sufficient reason for him to hear no more. They were going to honor him by staying in his house and he was going to make sure that their onward journey would be a very safe one!

A few months later found the erstwhile Mrs. Subbalakshmi and her husband back in the same place on their return leg, but this time without the child who had succumbed to the hands of fate.