Monday, May 10, 2010

Chitti 100

Chitti alias PG Sundarrajan belonged to the Manikkodi generation of Tamizh writers. Yesterday I had attended his centenary function and blogged about it in Tamizh. I thought I could share a few music related issues on this blog also. My first exposure to Chitti was when I read a book about the river Kaveri that he had co authored with another celebrated Tamizh writer Thi Janakiraman. At that time I had only read the English translation but the book is a wonderful travelogue on a trip down the river Kaveri from its source in Mercara all the way down to the coast. My personal interest was centred a lot on the musical references as well as the description of the Tanjore delta in that  context.

About 5 or 6 years back, when I was being approached for a concert at the Ratnagireeswarar temple in Besant nagar, I met Mr Venugopal who introduced himself as Chitti's son. This was when I started getting interest in tamizh literature and I decided to go and meet him. For a nonagenarian he was mentally very alert and ready to share a lot of stories and anecdotes My interest at that time was mostly musical. He and a group of his friends were huge fans of Madurai Mani Iyer. They always referred to the "Madurai Mani Kacchery" as "Maduraa Bell Court!" In Trichy there was a place where Madurai Mani sang regularly in a mandapam, and this big gang of his fans that included Chitti never missed the concert. Violinist Tiruvalangadu Sundaresa Iyer referred to the location as "Mani Mandapam!"

Maybe someone can help me out on this but I think Madurai Mani Iyer has sung a song "Mahathmavin vazhi nadappom" In Shanmukhapriya that was written by Chitti. Anyway the more interesting story was the year MMI was given the Sangeetha Kalanidhi. Chitti had drafted MMI's acceptance speech and had been requested to read it out on the day. Somehow the Academy officials were not keen to let someone like Chitti read out the presidential address. So on the morning of the function MMI was informed that the person reading out the speech had to be either a relative or a student. They could have just said "It cannot be Chitti!" MMI was quite upset but could not really do anything and finally TV Sankaranarayanan, his nephew, read out the address. MMI however made it up with Chitti the following year when the Tamizh Isai Sangam honoured him and Chitti read out the address on his behalf! After Chitti was a Tamizh writer and the TIS would not have any objections!! Today when an institution like the Music Academy can call people from other walks of like like Viswanathan Anand, they should bring in writers like Jeyakanthan, Ashokamithran or Ki Rajanarayanan who are senior and have written a lot on music.

Coming back to Chitti, he attended my concert at the Ratnagireeswarar temple. I sang "Marivere" in Shanmukhapriya and he was so happy because he remembered MMI's wonderful renditions of that song!