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Saga of Steadfast Devotion - Book Release

MS & Radha; saga of steadfast devotion

Book Release
Price: Rs. 708
Available at Sruti
9, Cathedral Road, Chennai 600086
Ph: +91-44-28128070; INDIA
New Horizon Media
33/15, Eldams Road, Chennai 600018
Ph: +91-44-42009601; INDIA
MADURAI SHANMUKHAVADIVU SUBBULAKSHMI (1916-2004) was acclaimed as one of the greatest musicians of India. The shy girl from the temple town of Madurai, groomed by mother Shanmukhavadivu, and fine-tuned by doyen Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, became a national icon, revered as an avatar of the medieval saint-poet Meera.

Millions were mesmerised by the grandeur of her voice and overwhelmed by her philanthropy. Husband Tyagarajan Sadasivam ensured that her native genius was polished and perfected until she became a cult figure, awarded the most prized title in her field–the Music Academy’s Sangita Kalanidhi–and conferred India's highest civilian honour, Bharat Ratna. Through it all, MS remained modest, humble, steadfast in her devotion to God, guru, and mentor-husband.

RADHA VISWANATHAN, her daughter and vocal accompanist from childhood, has been a Bharatanatyam artiste, Carnatic musician and music guru. Radha placed service to MS above personal ambition. Love and devotion characterized the bonds between the two women.

GOWRI RAMNARAYAN, MS’s grandniece, who tells their story, is a writer and journalist. A triple gold medallist in her MA (English), she earned a doctorate in comparative aesthetics by researching the role of emotion in art. A playwright and theatre director (Dark Horse, Rural Phantasy, Flame of the Forest, Water Lilies), she is the author of children’s books (Abu’s World, Abu’s World Again), biographer (Past Forward: the Childhood of Six Artistes), translator of short stories (Kalki: Selected Stories), and plays (Vijay Tendulkar’s Kanyadaan, Mitrachi Goshta). Gowri was vocal accompanist to MS for 16 years.

MS and Radha: Saga of Steadfast Devotion, the brainchild of V. Shrinivasan, son of Radha Viswanathan, has been published under the auspices of the Suswaralakshmi Foundation for Classical Music and Performing Arts, to fulfil Radha’s desire to pay her tribute to the memory of MS.

Excerpt From the Book "MS & Radha; saga of steadfast devotion"

Book Release
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh presents the first copy to Pandit Ravi Shankar at a function in New Delhi on December 11, 2008; (L to R) Gowri Ramnarayan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Radha Viswanathan (seated) V. Shrinivasan, Pandit Ravi Shankar

Speech by Gowri Ramnarayan at book release function in New Delhi


"Honourable Prime Minister and distinguished guests,

This book is being released at a time when our country, and indeed the whole world, are going through brutal times. 26/11 happened while we were still working on this book, and it was very difficult to think of anything except the fact that reality had assumed the character of a horror movie.

And yet, this very act of brutality made me look at the way Subbulakshmi and her mentor-husband Sadasivam responded to bloodshed in their times. They registered their protest by making tyaga, sacrifice, and aparigraha, austerity, their way of life. They gave away the proceeds from her concerts, from awards and music recordings, amounting to several crores of rupees, to various causes that they considered essential for human welfare. Radha Viswanathan followed her parents on this trail of satyagraha, which is not a political term at all, but the assertion of truth in everyday existence.

To say that music contributes to the spiritual well being of humanity sounds like a cliché. But listen to MS singing raga Sankarabharanam or Todi, and without being aware of it, you are lifted into another plane altogether, you soar into the stars. And then we know what "sublime" means, not in the words of philosophy, but in our pulse throb, in our heart beat.

As Subbulakshmi's grandniece, it was an emotional experience for me to relive those days of growing up in her household. As her vocal accompanist for 15 years in the 80s and 90s, and travelling with her on concert tours I was able to get more insights into her music and her life. This also helped me to understand Radha's role so much more.

In writing about M.S.Subbulakshmi, I am asserting the values that our nation holds dear – damyata, datta, dayadhvam – restraint, generosity and compassion. Subbulakshmi sang this prayer in every concert with such conviction and hope. Writing "MS & Radha: a Saga of Steadfast Devotion", is my act of devotion, my act of resistance.

Thank you."

Gowri Ramnarayan


The book we made at home

Sunday, December 26, 2010

(First published in The Bengal Post)

“I have fixed 11th December as the date for the book release by the Prime Minster.” My wife’s cousin Cheenu was smiling confidently as he dropped this bombshell. “What book?” I asked, nonplussed by this casual remark Shrinivasan, son of Radha Viswanathan and grandson of T Sadasivam and MS Subbulakshmi, made in mid-October a couple of years ago.

My wife Gowri confessed that in the midst of a debilitating illness in July of the same year, she had agreed to write a book about the special relationship between her grandaunt MS and her daughter-disciple Radha. Bedridden for months, she had forgotten all about it.

Cheenu then cheerfully entrusted me the task of finding a publisher for the proposed book! I explained to him that no publisher on earth would even accept or reject the proposal in that time. I tried to persuade him to postpone the release by a few months, but he assured me that that was an impossibility...more

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