Date:13/10/2006 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/fr/2006/10/13/stories/2006101300900300.htm
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Immortal voice

V. KALADHARAN

The first Venmani Memorial Award was presented to Kottakal Sivaraman.



REMEMBERING A MAESTRO: Shaji N. Karun lights a lamp to inaugurate a function at Thodupuzha to pay homage to Kathakali musician Venmani Haridas.

A couple of young art enthusiasts organised a function at Thodupuzha to commemorate the contributions of Kathakali musician Venmani Haridas.

As a tribute to the singer on his first death anniversary, the first Venmani Memorial Award was presented to Kottakal Sivaraman. Cinematographer and director Shaji N. Karun emotionally recalled their association in his films `Swam' and `Vanaprastham,' in which Haridas had donned memorable roles. Shaji was all praise for the simplicity and modesty of Haridas. This coupled with dedication, he said, was what made him an artiste par excellence.

Kottakal Sivaraman struggled to find the right words while remembering their bond, on and off the stage. The listeners could easily imagine the affinity between an emotionally effervescent actor and a vocalist whose mellifluous melody highlighted the sentimental scenes in Kathakali. Sivaraman recited a padam of Sita in the play `Lavanasuravadhom,' - `Anupamagunanaakum' - when Sita addresses her twins Lava and Kusha, as a soul-stirring rendition of Haridas in the non-conventional raga Reethigowla.

"When Hari sang the pallavi of that padam, it turned into a spontaneous flow of maternal affection. On stage, Sivaraman then faded out completely and Sita took over."

Single-minded devotion

True to the reminiscences of Shaji and Sivaraman, Haridas remained a self-effacing artist all through his life. His was a quiet voyage into the unusual realms of ragas and rhythms based on an explicit understanding of Carnatic as well as Hindustani music.

Amidst the loud and differently pitched instrumental music, it is hard for a Kathakali vocalist to stick to a certain sruti and swarasthanas. Haridas could effortlessly retain both with his voice-culture. This showed his single-minded devotion and a strict adherence to classicism. This was evident in his renditions of the padams in the not-so-familiar ragas in Kathakali like Joanpuri, Asaveri, Revathi, Simhendramadhyamam, Vrindavanasarangam, Kalyanavasantham, Reethigowla and so on.

During the latter part of his life, Haridas had sung the technically demanding plays of Kottayath Thampuran and others impressively. On such occasions, he took care to stay away from improvisations and crooning. He then had his eyes and mind fixed on legendary actors like Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair and Gopi who enacted principal roles. The artistic life of Haridas tells us a lot about the persistent challenge a Kathakali vocalist is confronted with in the negotiations between visual grammar and musical navigations.

Venmani Haridas often succeeded in such negotiations. In the history of Kathakali music, his name has been immortalised.

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