Restored footage brings Subramania Pillai to life
12 months ago B. Kolappan 0
Previously unseen video footage of legendary mridangam player Palani M. Subramania Pillai, running to eight minutes, has been available on YouTube for five days now.
The clipping shows Pillai accompanying vocalist Kalyanakrishna Bhagavathar; Lalgudi G. Jayaraman on the violin and Tiruchi Sankaran, the desciple of Subramania Pillai, also on the mridhangam.
“Finally, three decades of my research has borne fruit. The concert was organised by the owners of Dindigul’sAngu Vilas Tobacco Company. It was originallyrecorded on an 8 mm film. I bought it from an old provider of sound equipment,” says mridangam player G. Sridhar Kumar.
His father, V.S. Gopal, was a disciple of Subramania Pillai.
Pillai’s biographer ‘Lalitha Ram’ Ramachandran says this is possibly the only video of the great master in a live performance. (Mr. Ram has also watched G.N. Balasubramaniam in the company of Lalgudi Jayaraman and Palghat Raghu.)
Help from archives
The owners of the Angu Vilas Tobacco Company werenoted patrons of music and regularly hosted concerts.
It was from their archives that Indira, daughter of late nagaswaram player Karukurichi Arunachalam, obtained a short video footage of her father, in which the greatArunachalam is seen performing composerAnayampatti Adhisesa Ayyar’s Enna kavi padinalum in Raga Nilamani, with Needamangalam Shanmugavadivel on the thavil.
After obtaining the clippings, Mr. Sridhar Kumar sent it to percussionist Kalidas, another disciple of Pillai. Mr. Kalidas was able to salvage the footage, estimated to be over than half a century old.
But a peculiar problem had to be overcome first. The recording had a background of nagaswaram music instead of the performance rendered by Bhagavathar, Pillai and Jayaraman.
“Fortunately, I had the concert that wasactually performed by the trio in my collection,” says Mr. Sridhar Kumar.
Mr. Kalidas, who took the help of fellow mridangistAkshay Kumar to incorporate music from original concert into the video of Pillai, says, “It [the restored footage] is a great pleasure. People who love Subramania Pillai’s genius can see his body language and face.”