Close Encounter : Carrying forward the tradition

Close Encounter : Carrying forward the tradition

The Lalgudi siblings GJR Krishnan and Vijayalakshmi who are carrying forward the Lalgudi bani in its purest form, talk about their father and guru,...

The Lalgudi siblings GJR Krishnan and Vijayalakshmi who are carrying forward the Lalgudi bani in its purest form, talk about their father and guru, Lalgudi Jayaraman

Usha Turaga Revelli

clode1Would it be possible to pass on one's soul as a legacy? Is it possible to pervade the lives of one's offspring in such a way that indelible prints are left on their heart and mind? Is it possible to continue to live on in their creative expressions, showing the mark in the practise of their art, again and again?

This father has done it. He played a father, a guru, a mentor, a promoter. He gave his children skills; he taught them music; He taught them nuances perceivable only to a blessed maestro. He taught them to reproduce splendour of Carnatic classical music. He is the father who taught them about the brief, stunning silence between two waves of the ocean when they sat on the beach listening to the wind and the waves. So that the offspring became as prodigious as the father. So that they today sustain a stream of music that is renowned as much for its purity as its sublime technique.

When violin legend Lalgudi Jayaraman passed away a couple of months ago, he left a void that can never be filled but he did not leave music completely bereft of maestros. His son Lalgudi GJR Krishnan and daughter Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi, professionals in their own right, now bear the legacy of the bow, with aplomb and pride. The siblings were in Hyderabad last week to perform a tribute to their late father, under the aegis of SICA.

How much do they miss their father? "It was an intense Guru Shishya relationship. When I play the violin, every note bears his mark. It can't be otherwise," says Krishnan. "I think God excelled Himself in creating such a genius and that divine energy is still flowing to us," Vijayalakshmi adds. Krishnan, a qualified Company Secretary and Cost Accountant, and Vijayalakshmi, a post-graduate in Literature, however, never moved away from what was inevitably mainstream for them - classical Carnatic music. They have unquestionably established their credentials as solo artistes, as a duo, as trio and jugalbandhi artistes and have played with their father umpteen times.

Do they feel a need to come out of the shadow of the giant? "I don't think we should make a conscious effort, it should happen naturally. Besides, sun shines on bright but stars have their own glow," Vijayalakshmi smiles. "We are already individual artistes, we just infuse our own essence in to the Bani," Krishnan points out.

The Lalgudi Bani is unique and renowned. Do they feel that there is a violation of the pristine parametres of music as defined by Lalgudi in contemporary music scenario? "Technique is where all of us begin. But later on, we need to realise that technique is only a means. Musicians need to have an innate artistic sensitivity," the siblings are unequivocal.

Audiences are hard to hold and sustenance of interest in the art a challenge, they agree. "I guess everyone has to go through that rough patch. It takes commitment and staying power and we need to cultivate taste," Krishnan says. "There is a lot of talent and numerous opportunities and given that so much music is accessible these days, we need to see that Banis are not diluted. There is an urge these days to express individualities quickly. Concerts have become cocktails of presentation. That needs to be checked," Vijayalakshmi sums up.

The memories that they cherish of their father are not just innumerable, they are striking too. "Many years ago, we were getting back from a concert when he realised that we had not played a single Tyagaraja kriti in the concert. As soon as we reached home, he asked me to bring the violin and sat at the Puja room and played 'Aparadhamulu' and only then did he feel that we have finished. Such was his absorption and discipline," Krishnan recalls.


Lalgudi was made honorary Director of the Sriram group of companies and when he attended the first Board meeting, he was proferred the sitting fee as a matter of routine. "My father was baffled. He said 'but I have not contributed anything, why are you paying me?' He never understood the idea of honorarium and eventually resigned from the post."

Similarly, when he was made State Artiste under MGR's rule, Lalgudi went and asked what his duties were for the payment of Rs 1000 they made to him every month. When told he did not need to do anything, he promptly started a trust and deposited the entire money in it. That was how the Lalgudi Trust was born. One of the many silent endeavours of a great and humble man.

Harper Collins is now publishing the maestro's biography by Lakshmi Devnath. Based on almost 250 hours of interviews with Lalgudi, the book entitled 'An Incurable Romantic', is due to be on the shelves soon. "It is a lineage that came down from Saint Tyagaraja and we are conscious that we have the responsibility to keep it alive and vibrant and pass it on to whoever seeks it," says Krishnan.

The Lalgudi scions are gracious, shy and well-informed and have clear sight of the vision of their father. It appears they let their bows do the talking and what a divine speech it is!

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