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Natarajan, maker of musical instruments, hopes to figure in the Guinness Book of Records with his whopper of a veena.



Dodda Veena Natarajan's labour of love — Photo: T.L. Prabhakar

HE IS an ordinary man with extraordinary dreams. Right from childhood, he always "dreamt big". He dreamt of working in an office, but had to discontinue his education at 14, to take care of his family, when he lost his father.

Chinnappa Natarajan's first job was at Aruna Musicals as an assistant, where he had to repair and restore old and broken musical instruments. He took it in his stride and was determined to carve a niche for himself anyway. "I had no inclination towards music," says he. But he took pains to learn the various instruments he made, so that he could "demonstrate the intricacies to customers".

And in 1982, he started his own musical store, Shiva Musicals, where he started off with a single damaged harmonium.

Today, this tiny shop, on Sampige Road, Malleswaram, is 20 years old, and is popular with musicians and music lovers. He even has a few awards to his credit like the R.S. Keshavmurthy Award, Bharat Jyothi Award, Indira Gandhi Award, and the title Sangeetha Kalabhushana.

He wanted to, in some way, give back something to the world of music to show his gratitude. "I can neither sing nor am I an instrumentalist. All that I know is to make and repair musical instruments. So I thought, why not make a large instrument, which is unique." And he zeroed in on the veena, "considered an auspicious instrument", says the man now known as Dodda Veena Natarajan.

Thus it was that the ekanta veena, weighing 70 kg. and made of a single piece of wood, took shape. "Initially, the idea was to make a plain veena. But as I started working, new ideas came."

After labouring for six months, the 10-foot-long and two-and-a-half foot wide Sarva Bhowma Veene was ready.

This intricately carved instrument has interesting features. "There is one deity for each note such as Agni for the note sa, Brahma for re, Saraswathi for ga," he explains, and these deities are placed on one side of the dandi. "Each note is also symbolised by an animal. So, on the other side of the dandi these animals have been carved, as also other deities, Purandara Dasa, Thyagaraja, Kanakadasa, and so on.

The question before Natarajan now is storage space for the veena. "I do not want to sell it as I do not want to make any profit out of it. This veena is a creation of my sheer love for music. I want it to be in Bangalore as it is my baby and should at least be able to see it when I feel like it. It is my humble contribution to the world of music."

Natarajan can be contacted on 3447175.

SHILPA SEBASTIAN ROMELES

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