T.M. Krishna in conversation with Anuradha Ananth

30 May

T M Krishna

I hastily put the hot, cheese-centered dynabite back onto the plate when TM Krishna walks into Chamier’s Eco café. He looks like he’s easily lost about 15 kgs and his closely cropped hair and new beard gives him an almost rakish look. When he settles down with a garden trio juice, he confides that he woke up one day and didn’t like the way he looked. So he went off sugar, cut down his intake of rice and voila! 15kgs fell off his person in 6 months.

“So do you think this new level of fitness makes a difference to your singing?” I ask. “It definitely does. Singing seems like a very passive activity. But its not”, he says emphatically. “It involves a lot of physicality. It requires a lot of stamina and lung power. I’m young now so there’s no problem but I don’t want to be dealing with weight issues later on. I have seen a lot of overweight musicians and I don’t want to get there”, he says with a twinkle in his eyes which matches the light which flashes from his earring.

“Ah, the earring”, he laughs. “ My wife said, if you want to wear an earring, then you must first grow a beard ! And so I did and obtained her permission to sport this”. Hoping I don’t sound like a giddy-headed fan (we’re also recording this for a TV telecast on NDTV-Hindu), I compliment him as un-gushily as is possible. While he’s basking in the adulation, I make a song request knowing he can’t refuse. I needn’t have worried. Even without setting his ‘shruthi’, Krishna breaks into Jayathi Jayathi Bharathamatha and it is wonderful to hear him at such close quarters and without a microphone.

Margazhi Ragam is now on DVD so I ask him to share his views on the importance and inevitability of technology in the sphere of art. “ Jayshree, Jayendra and I were thrilled at the overwhelming response we got for Margazhi Ragam. What was inspiring was the response from people who had no idea of Carnatic music. Let me tell you this story. I was in Tiruchi and I had gone to a local theatre to see Naan kadavul and when the theatre owner learnt that I was there, he invited me to his office and told me that he had never heard Carnatic music in his life before Margazhi Ragam was screened in his theatre. And now, he said, he buys cds of Carnatic music regularly. That’s the true victory of this project..that it has touched and moved so many people”, he says settling back in satisfaction. He then sings a snatch in raga Kamas (Sitapathi naamanasuna) and then tells me why he chose that bit. Apparently the editor of Margazhi Ragam knew every swara (having sat with it at the editing table for days) and would even correct Krishna when he sang the piece.

We then talk about his constant collaborator-Bombay Jayshree. “We’ve known each other for a really long time”, he says. “But we realized we had common goals and a common vision post- 2000. We wanted to contribute to classical music in more areas than just performing. We started by bringing out our book Voices Within, we’ve performed extensively together. She’s the exact anti-thesis of what I am and that works well”, he breaks into a good-natured laugh.

Krishna is not only an interviewer’s delight but a song-requester’s too. He breaks into the lilting Vande Mataram which is both his and Jayshree’s favourite.

When he finishes, he finally reaches for a dynabite prompting me to ask him what kind of diet do musicians follow-a sattvic one?

“Wrong person to ask”, he says biting into the by now gone-cold but still delicious snack. We order Thai curry and rice which Krishna eats a very sensible portion of. He is the right person to ask considering how mindful he is of what he tucks in. And he’s also going trekking in Bhutan !!

It is a treat of an afternoon. Krishna illustrating a Ragam-Thanam-Pallavi (“it’s 99% about improvisation and you must have in-depth insight into the raga”); him telling me about his project of archiving Muthuswami Dikshitar’s compositions; explaining the contradiction that while he believes in adhering to classicism and purity, he also thinks a traditional mindset is the biggest impediment to creative progress (“tradition is a jelly-like substance and imagine you are in it. As you push and swim in it, it extends and moves with you”); and finally the lessons he learnt from his Gurus (“discipline and letting oneself go in a concert”)

And Krishna lets himself go with Chinanjiru Kizhiye by Bharatiyar……

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