The Members Breakfast (a tradition from the era of King George V when the Academy was ‘at home’ to its members on the 1st of January) was held and for once (or I may be mistaken and it may have always been so), the food was of the highest quality including the coffee. The menu included pongal, dosai, puri with masala, vadai, badushah (originally badshah I suppose) and badam halwa. Three chutneys, respectively white, orange and green were served along with sambar and molaga podi. Good stuff and with the old digestive tract having reported all clear, I did full justice to it all.
The Open House had Dr Pappu Venugopala Rao, Dr N Ramanathan, TR Subramaniam, V Subrahmanyam, Prof SR Janakiraman, AKC Natarajan, TK Govinda Rao, Dr MB Vedavalli, BM Sundaram, Kalpakam Swaminathan, Suguna Purushottaman and Dr SAK Durga.
The proceedings were initially most tiring with speaker after speaker lavishing praise (most deservedly) on Dr Pappu until he firmly got them on track and asked for comments and criticism. The peregrinating mike was then with Dr MB Vedavalli who said that while the lec dems were all good, she could not understand why the lec dem on Dasa kritis was allowed at all. She was also not in favour of the lec dem on Mysore as a Seat Of Music as she felt it was all her work being presented once again with nothing new. She also felt that Periasami Thooran should not have been qualified as a vaggeyakara as all his songs had been tuned by someone else. This irked TK Govinda Rao no end as he apparently had also tuned some of Thooran’s songs and he had presented the lec de anyway. But the mike had already passed him and so he had to bide his time. Then it was BM Sundaram’s turn and he said the great positive in the lec dems was the way Dr Pappu cut short all rambling speeches that had no relevance to the subject under discussion. But BMS also felt that the Dasa lec dem was of poor quality and that the speaker had merely read out from a prepared text.
Suguna Purushottaman perhaps sensing the tension over Thooran was more conciliatory and said that she enjoyed all lec dems in particular the one on the Rupamu Juchi varnam and the also liked the Dasa one, the latter more so because she did not have the opportunity to attend Sudha’s concerts often (was this praise?). The mike then went on to Dr Durga who differed from Dr Vedavalli and felt that the lec dems were not to be the prerogative of the Experts Committee alone but research scholars such as Vikram Sampath should be allowed. In any case, the audience each year is new and so what is the harm in representing a subject after twenty years?
The mike darted back to TKG who disagreed with Dr Vedavalli and said that looking at it that way, even Annamacharya and Purandara Dasa songs are not sung in original tunes. Dr MBV replied that everyone knew that they were great musicians unlike Thooran etc. At one stage the two were even grappling with the same mike. Dr Pappu stepped in and asked audience members to speak.
Some of the points:
Sanjay Subrahmanyan – Academy must ask vidwans to record their versions of old compositions and keep it in the digitised archives for the benefit of future generations
Other queries/comments etc (did not catch names of most speakers)
1. There must be at least one veena lec dem each year
2. There are problems of comprehension if the speaker presents in a regional language.
3. Can the Academy digitise its old journals and put them up for viewing. This was agreed to by Dr Pappu
4. Can the speakers be given more time?
5. Can more youngsters be brought for these lec dems?
6. Can the Lakshanas of only two ragas be discussed?
AKC thanked everyone for helping him conduct the conference smoothly.