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A Carnatic Music Kutcheri

V.R. Devika

By Lakshmi Devnath
Harper Collins, New Delhi, 2013, pp. 435 with an audio CD, Rs. 599.00


Lakshmi Devnath serves up a breathless narration on the life of the legendary violin maestro Lalgudi G. Jayaraman. It is like a Carnatic music Kutcheri alternating between Kalpita and Manodharma. As Devnath explains in the book, Carnatic music consists of two main modes. Kalpita and Mano-dharma. While Kalpita is the name given to the already composed according to the Raga characteristics, Manodharma is the creation of the performer’s imagination subject to the rules of the Raga. The book takes up both modes in equal measure. While there is a biographical sketch based on interviews in a narration mode, there is also the storytelling mode adopted by the author. It gives a tantalizing mix of anecdotal and narrative styles.   Lalgudi Jayaraman himself says, ‘This biography records not just the pleasant and happy moments but has also gone into some of the challenging times, the dilemmas I have had and my disagreements with some people at various points in my career. I felt that the so called “personal” or the “Not so pleasant” incidents are as much part of the story as the celebratory ones.’ And he welcomes it. That the book got ready a couple of days after his passing away adds to the poignancy. Lakshmi Devnath has interviewed hundreds of people over hundreds of hours, travelled to Lalgudi to feel the air of the maestro’s birthplace and pored over several hundred reviews and articles to get this sketch done.   Pandit Ravi Shankar, the Sitar Maestro who has written the foreward also passed away before the book was launched. Ravi Shankar says he was blown away by the biography.   This is the story of a man who lived and loved music, of a genius, supremely talented. The title is intriguing. Lalgudi Jayaraman was known to be very strict and only into his music. Lakshmi Devnath says that Lalgudi Jayaraman constantly reiterated that the violin was his Kathali, the love of his life. The story brings alive the beauty of that relationship told in such a romantic manner that one cannot but fall in love with the man and his music. To help fall deeper in love, there is the audio CD attached to the book which lets you savour the magnificence of Lalgudi’s music as it evolved over time. This lingers in the mind for a long time. That the story of each piece of music is told ...

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