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Life and times of a singer

VINU VASUDEVAN

A biography traces the struggle and achievements of veteran singer Venmani Haridas.

`Bhavagayakan,' a biography of Venmani Haridas, whose melodious voice once enthralled Kathakali fans, documents the life of this stalwart. Published by Rainbow Books and penned by N.P. Vijayakrishnan, the book documents Haridas' life and struggles.

"I don't think that I qualify for a biographical sketch. I am an ordinary man and I don't know how I am different," was the initial modest reaction of Haridas towards the book.

One of the best

Haridas, regarded as one of the best Kathakali musicians, had played an important role in carving a niche for Kathakali music. The Embranthiri-Haridas team once dominated the music department in Kathakali. This combination revitalised Kathakali music.

Haridas had his initial training in Kathakali music at Kerala Kalamandalam under the renowned musician Neelakantan Nambissan.

He had also studied under Kalamandalam Gangadharan and Sivaraman Nair. Haridas' style was so impressive and appealing that many fans of Kathakali flocked to see performances to hear him sing. After finishing his studies and after gaining sufficient experience on the stage Haridas Darpana Academy in Ahmedabad. Haridas became an internationally reputed musician and he was exposed to different forms of music such as Hindustani, which helped in expanding his horizon.

"After my return to Kerala, I had to struggle for a berth on stage. I had to sing as `singidi' (supporting singer) for many of my classmates and juniors," he added. These different and difficult periods have been included in the book.

A lesson

According to Haridas, "Documenting the life, struggle and achievements of veterans are good for the next generation. I am happy about this aspect."

Vijayakrishnan, a teacher by profession, is an accomplished writer of art and culture.

"After sketching the biographies of Kalamandalam Sankaran Embranthiri and Hyderali, I thought of writing about this gifted singer. But it is a different picture that has emerged. Haridas' life and career reminded me of Padmasree Keezhpadam Kumaran Nair's biography. Both had faced similar situations in their career," Vijayakrishnan said.

"It was a moving experience to listen to Haridas talking about his life and career. Haridas' life is, in a way, a journey through the different periods and growth of Kathakali music."

Owing to his prolonged illness, Haridas no longer sings on stages these days. But Kathakali lovers still fondly remember this bhavagayaga's magical voice.

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