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Making Sanskrit musical

LEARNING SANSKRIT is no cakewalk. Greatest understatement of the century, that. Right?

Writing Sanskrit lyrics? No joke. But that's what Jayaprakash does. He started at the early age of sixteen in 1984 and continues to be at it, despite the effort not being highly remunerative.

His latest effort is a Natyakacheri based on the Bible. A two-hour affair, he has just finished its script and lyrics, written in Manipravalam (Sanskrit and Malayalam).

Down South, learning Sanskrit is a mission, not something that people opt to do very happily, if there's no calling as such. On the national scene too, writing Sanskrit lyrics is not exactly the hobby of many people. Few have ventured into lyric writing. That Jayaprakash has got many reputed singers to compose music for these lyrics and also sing them is the real achievement, according to him. "For the love of it, first," he explains. He writes in Malayalam, Tamil and Hindi too. All his lyrics are devotional or based on some related topic. Singers like Prabhakara Varma have sung his keerthanas and devotionals have been sung by Mano, Jayachandran, Arundhati, Biju Narayanan among others. A number of cassettes have been released so far, all devotional.

The great grandson of Kanchi Seetharama Saraswathy Swamikal, Jayaprakash believes that the very reason that his grandfather initiated him into the language, when he was just eight, has helped him get a firm foothold in Sanskrit. He continued pursuing his studies in right earnest, till he got a degree in Sahithyam from the Sanskrit College, Tripunithura.

His devotion to Sree Poornathrayeesan is another factor that has contributed to his success, feels Jayaprakash. The Jayaprakasha Sangeetha Parishath started in 1988, functions actively till today and on Uthram Tirunal, in the month of Kumbham, the birthday of Sree Poornathrayeesan, every year, established vocalists sing the lyrics of Jayaprakash, about the Lord, at the temple. All the keerthanas have the mughamudra, `Jayaprakash', `the same way you have `Thyagaraja' in his kritis,' he says. "About 75 per cent of my earnings are spent on conducting this one-day sadhana. Most of the singers do it for free," he says.

Today, he has around 350 lyrics to his credit, a majority of them in Sanskrit. He has also written devotionals and bhajans in Malayalam, Tamil and Hindi. He is into telefilms too. `Chakkulathamma' is the latest one for which he wrote the script. `Ezharaponnana,' on the Ettumanur temple, is getting ready now.

So much for music. Jayaprakash is learning bharathanatyam, Kuchupudi and mridangam. In the Festival of India, in 1984, he was part of Kala Vijayan's group that presented an item. "As all these are related arts, I find it interesting," he said by way of explanation. So, naturally padams for dances also are part of his repertoire. A natyanjali padam, varnam, javeli and thillana included.

Indian tradition is sometimes sold for a song, all unknowingly. Jayaprakash has had his share too. At the instance of a friend, he wrote Buddha Charitham, in 31 slokas, called `Light of Asia' in Sanskrit for the dancer Urvashi Leon. The friend paid him Rs 2,000. The next he heard was that it was choreographed and dance shows done all over Europe. He was not even told about it, much less invited.

But Jayaprakash has no regrets, no ill feelings.

Jayaprakash's wife, Sandhya Vani, an advocate, does her bit in her role as chairperson of `Ahalya,' an organisation that gives free legal aid for women and also spreads legal awareness. Son, Kashyapan (the Sanskrit hangover persists!) is just starting play school. The Vidyapeedom he has just started in Tripunithura teaches, besides music and dance, the right way to chant Lalithasahasranamam, as Jayaprakash put it.

PREMA MANMADHAN

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