Imagine a Bullet Train chugging along at top speed, on a steel bridge, as you lie down to go to sleep. As you are getting used to the musical reverie, the train alternates with a fast and furious entry into a cave. That was some enthralling experience that we the Rasikas were taken on, by Tiruchur Brothers, Srikrishna Mohan and Ramkumar Mohan on 14th Dec,2019 at Brahma Gana Sabha, at 18.00 hrs. Giving a typical start to any of their concerts, they literally tuned the acoustics to fit their duo singing, and that meant they were in their element.
The brothers have now made the grade. They have now built a fan following which ensures that the hall gets filled up, notwithstanding the host of concerts on, simultaneously. They made the ‘grade’, literally, a couple of years ago ,when the Music Academy, (which had its inauguration on 16th Dec, 2019,at 17.00 sharp, with clockwork precision) escalated them to the evening slot at 16.00 hrs, answering the clarion call from the rasikas, for at least two or three years running. It is time the Academy deigned to elevate the younger performers, as such recognition goes a long way in enthusing more, to emulate, and Carnatic music deserves close nurturing, to lend more strength, vigour, energy and effervescence, which is the need of the hour. Performing at Lords is lordly, one has to concede.
As the Bullet Train left the station, it was a jumpy start with the Varnam Mathe. But it was no jerky motion. It was on an even keel. That is the beauty of their upbringing, with their mother, as possibly their first Guru at home, and continuing to be their leading light. That their father Sri. Mohan accompanies them on stage, on Mirudangam, makes it, in part, a family affair. One wonders what the dinner table conversations at home, would be like.
It appears that their home at Tiruchur, was a welcoming one, for every other Carnatic musician, from all over India, led by the inimitable M S Subbulakshmi. Naturally, music was in their growing and the mellifluous ambience appears to have got into their veins. The Brothers have imbibed musical environment, as well as they could. That they were blooded early, is evident from the confidence level, they exude from the stage. As they sit erect, set the mike and throw the swarams, as if in a fusillade, from their throats, as is their wont, the concert platform is well lit.
The duo now performs like a M.S. Dhoni – Virat Kohli or to go back, a Sachin Tendulkar- Virender Sehwag or even earlier Sunil Gavaskar – Gundappa Vishwanath pairing .There is an intuitive feel between them. As one phrase is lobbed by the elder Mohan , the younger one, catches it in time and completes the run. There is now such a telepathic understanding between the two that the swaraprastharams exchange keep them afloat throughout the concert. Not once they miss a catch or there is fear of their getting run out. They do not fail to score the boundaries and sixes, as they exchange batons. It is a run, sorry, musical feast .There is sublimation in the musical matchmaking with the brothers alternating from a crescendo to the decrescendo or diminuendo (as is your pick), as their USP.
As one approached the venue, tickets were found to have been sold out. From the corner of the eye, one noticed that Balu @ N. Balasubramanian, Secretary, Brahma Gana Sabha, trying to organise seats for the latecomers. He had a tough ask and was surrounded by far too many aspirants for a seat. But not for nothing is old school time buddy friendship. That has an enduring faculty to trump over other networking retinue. So, Balu yielded his own seat and not for the first time.
One thanked Balu for the vantage seat, upfront, to watch and hear the brothers in action, on a day, they were on song. They broke into Aaro Evararo – Arunachala Kavi’s classic on Lord Rama as seen by Sita Mayya. (season favourite or Ramjanmabhoomi effect? ). The manner in which the singing duo exchanged the phrases, with meticulous and mellifluous H.N. Baskar on the fiddle, father Mohan on the Mirudangam (who else) and Shankar on the Kanjira, it was a Kasihalwa, Ravadosa,Filter Coffee combo. Filling and fulfilling. The brothers were particular that accompanists were identified, recognised and applauded by the rasikas, a welcome gesture, as Thani Avarthanam is always the awkward raskikas’ time to take leave.
Swati Tirunal’s (Subbudu’s bête noire vis a vis his running feud with Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, another day, another story) Bhogeendra Saayinam in Kuntavarali raagam, was the perfect breezy interlude, as the Bullet Train was speeding along in perfect rhythm. It was around 20.00 hrs when the Carnatic music Rasika gets itchy to take leave, when the brothers sought leave of the assembled, to carry on till around 21.00 hrs. There was thumbs up, as the duo broke into Raagam Thanam Pallavi in Beeethovenpriya Raagam (Musician Ramesh Vinayagam’s creation, we were told) on Lord Venkateswara. The Bullet Train did not yield speed, one bit, as it climbed the hill, and gave us free darshan with lots of laddoos. It was a sweet presentation ‘with lots of liberties taken’ as the singers confessed.
As they wound up with a home grown lullaby, from God’s Own Country, one heard muted sobbing from the rear. Without indecently turning back, one, sharpened the ears to pick up that it was a widowed mother yearning for her only son’s love, as she was reminded by the lullaby, which she had sung as a young mother, to put her child to bed. Now, she was ‘put up’ by her generous son, a software engineer in the US of A, in an old age home. (after selling the family jewels which he claimed that his wife and 2 girls born abroad, had no use for).
As the brothers broke into their own Mangalam routine, not the usual, one was rudely shaken by the inconsolable mother. It took a while for her neighbour, to get her on to her wobbly knees. But then, one went away with the feel that the concert was, after all, a success, as the emotional roller coaster of those in joy, revelry, calmness, prayerful, soulful, with the sad sombre sobbing of a doting mother, completing the full circle, of what a Carnatic music can and does offer. The Bullet Train was not brought to a halt with a sudden braking or a thud, as if a shakedown. It was eased into the station from the fast and furious to the mellowing, to the soft lullaby. One wonders whether the old lady had a good night sleep despite the fabulous concert we had come to. If she did not, which could have been more like it,that too, the Tiruchur brothers can take credit (for pathos too is an intrinsic, creative, impacting musical faculty) for. Life is full of contrasts, and Carnatic music platforms are no exception to this rule.
(Author- Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan- is practising advocate in the Madras High Court)