Aishwarya Vidhya Raghunath presented a buoyant Begada raga


Aishwarya Vidhya Raghunath presenting her concert for Naada Inbam, in December 2022.
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Expanding upon her opening kriti for 24 minutes, Aishwarya Vidhya Raghunath not only demonstrated her mastery in handling Begada, but ushered in celebration around one of Carnatic’s toughest ragas. The alapana was deceptively short, as Subbaraya Sastry’s ‘Sankari neeve’ began in no time after the curtains went up at Naada Inbam. The artiste has a natural capacity to pierce through loops, sharpening the key features of this derivative of Sankarabharanam.

Percussionists Delhi Sairam (mridangam) and Anirudh Athreya (kanjira) made hay out of the medium-paced Roopaka-tala composition, while violinist Vittal Rangan strode elegantly along the expansive niraval at ‘Sri kanchi sadana.’ If neatness marked the end-charanam chittaswaras earlier, Aishwarya displayed her eminence in the imaginative kalpana segment. It was fairly long, but never dragging: restrained forays made a grand rally. None sought to outplay the other, they only reinforced Begada’s richness in a show of exemplary teamwork. (Leave aside the noisy inhalations at certain gaps — apparently she had a mild cold.)

The graceful swing of the ‘ma’ note, while embellishing the swaraprastara, dropped unmistakable hints at the vocalist’s twin source of aesthetics. The kaleidoscopic patterns were typical of the Semmangudi bani, courtesy Aishwarya’s tutelage under Srinivasa Iyer’s disciples P.S. Narayanaswamy and Seethalakshmi Venkatesan. The young singer’s tendency to rein in her voice while hitting the top registers stems from her parallel allegiance to T. Brinda: the legend’s daughter Vegavahini Vijayaraghavan is another guru of Aishwarya’s.

The kutcheri spanned 145 minutes, featuring just seven items. The resultant leisure no way translated into laxity. Refreshing melodies, too, played a role to this effect. The second piece, for instance, was in Jayamanohari — a peppy raga close to the more common Abhogi and Sriranjani, also Karaharapriya janyams.

Tyagaraja’s ‘Sri rama chitha’ was well rendered. As the swaraprastara gained momentum, the notes began chasing Aishwarya.

Varali ensued. Vittal’s solo response went by the pace of the alapana by Aishwarya, who even explored the scope of changing decibels to enhance bhava. ‘Karuna judavamma’ (Syama Sastri), which starts on a top note, was the choice. Mishra chapu made its maiden entry, working particularly well across the anupallavi beginning with Marakatangi.

Ahead of the main suite was a fast ‘Nijamarmamulanu’ in Umabharanam from the Harikamboji family. This kriti, too, carried a (crisp) swaraprastara that gurgled in contrast to the banking line (‘Kshema tyagarajanuta’) with its fancy slides.

Bhairavi occupied the centre stage. The vocalist’s stretching and rounding of the swaras added to the classicism of the dense raga up and down the alapana. The violinist reiterated his command over brigas and gamakas alike. Aishwarya negotiated Muthuswami Dikshitar’s ‘Balagopala’ with poise, arcing across its bends and gifting vacillations to the long-drawn niraval (around ‘Manikya makuta’) in the run-up to swaras.

The tani avartanam was a 17-minute interface between two intelligent souls with mutual respect. Dharmapuri Subbarayar’s Khamas javali Marubari and a breezy four-tune Ragamalika were the parting shots before the Bhadrachala Ramadas’ mangalam in Kurinji.

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