About Contact Submit Article or Event

Learning has become lethargical

He sits in a meager space, a shop with a protruding sheet cover in a rather lonely by lane in Avenue Road. His seating couch is also over filled with Mridangams, Ghatams, Tabalas and other making material.

I travelled to this second sweet home of Shri. M. R Rangaswamy, one of Bangalore’s most experienced Mridangist , today quietly withdrawing into his own shell.

Excerpts from a very intimate conversation.

How has this profession travelled over the years?
I was about 10yrs old when my hands first played the Mridangam. This is an art, a way of living that has come down from my forefathers. The music ensemble for a dancer travelled as a family. The quality of production was excellent since there were fewer opportunities.

Today the ensemble is just a hanging part of an artiste, commercialization has caused cut in the quality.

Was this profession a hard choice?
This profession has come hereditary; somewhere it exists in our blood. We knew we had to do only this, for we had no other options. Today youngsters know that there are a plethora of opportunities, and they can pick from them. Why go far? I was rigid that my children need not continue this. My son Purushottam is an M.E by profession, but is playing Mridangam currently. God’s destiny!

This was a passion right?
Yes truly. It still is passion. Playing for music was considered most prestigious. I have played for the likes of M.N Ratna (M. S Sheela’s mother), Chinchinpali Ramachandra, Ponappa Bhagavataru and Papa Choodamani.

And gradually I shifted to playing for dance since it had a wee bit more of scope. But it was looked down upon. Still I continued to endure the path. I have accompanied Shri Muttaiah Pillai, Kitappa Pillai, U. S Kaushik, U.S. Krishna Rao and Chandrabhaga Devi. In fact there was a time when they preferred me to play for their concerts.

The amazing fact was that my mother was an illiterate, but if I played the Mridangam, she was conversant with the right shruti and used to correct me.

I had fewer opportunities to learn and grow. Experience has taught me over the years. Today I can analyze that a certain thing would sound better if done the other way, but unfortunately it has come to me when I am growing weak.

Your opinion about youngsters today?
Somehow, I don’t know how to put it. ‘Egina Kalaavidarige Ekkagrate illa’! They will be playing on stage but looking or sometimes even talking elsewhere!

Learning has also become lethargical. Gradually I lost interest in teaching. There have been instances when after returning from a programme at 3.A.M early morning, I used to rush for a morning class, only to find the student fast asleep! Contrastingly when I studied, I used to shuttle by walk between different Gurus when each of them rested.

Today’s generation want everything ready. They would not make the slightest attempt to understand what goes behind making a Mridangam.

Are you satisfied?
I put in 10 hrs of work everyday. It is a tedious process of bringing wood, leather, drying it which depends on weather conditions and finally making this single piece look as you see. The happiness and contentment I gain by making 10 mridangams is unequalled. I can put forth fairly  arrogantly that I am a stand alone artiste who could make a mridangam and play it as well.

I do whatever programmes I am offered. I am travelling to Portugal next week. Being seen among the circles makes a big difference for getting offers, but I am not cut out for that. Every programme is a learning, a task accomplished.

1 comment:

Prasanna Kasthuri said...

Mrudanagada Rangaswamigalu... that's how he was known and still known. He is one of the most non-controversial, sincere, devoted artist I have ever seen in my 35 year - career of dance. My father, Raghusutha, always walked through Balepet, Chikpet for book publishing. I was walking with him when I was a kid. He used to sit with Rangaswamy and chat and share some laughter. I always appreciate the dedication and simplicity of this human being. His contribution to the field of Indian dancing in Bangalore is immense. His sons Tulasiram and Pushottama still dedicated to arts. Amazing family. Thanks for highlighting such as wonderful person. Kudos.

Post a Comment