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A poet extraordinaire

One name that is synonymous with the new-found revival of Kannada cinema is the master lyricist and poet, Jayant Kaikini. One of our volunteers, Vaishakhi, was fortunate enough to spend some time and exchange a few words with the gifted wordsmith…

The place was Udupi… the occasion Kadengodlu Shankara Bhat Kavya Prashasti 2009 award ceremony. It is awarded for excellence in the field of Kannada poetry and literature. The award was supposed to be given to two people. One of them, however, refused to accept it. The organizers agreed to his request off-stage. But the poet got the shock of his life on the dais when the organizers decided to give the award to him anyway. He had to be literally pinned down to the seat like a child on a dentist’s chair. It was none other than Jayant Kaikini!!

If the people on stage had not forced him to be seated he would have probably chased everyone out! For being a lyricist whose songs won the hearts of the youth across the state, he certainly has the heart of a child.

Anisuthide yaako indu

Nanene lucky endu

These words kept coming back to me as I geared up to meet the man behind the words himself. If you were expecting your average, snobbish stereotyped film industry elite, then you would have been in in for a shock. His demeanour was amazingly polite, down-to-earth, affable and energetic. It was hard to believe that this was the same person who had won 4 Sahitya Academy awards (including one at the tender age of 19), numerous other awards and is the best lyricist in the Kannada film scene at present.

When he addressed the audience he spoke with such fervor and sincerity that it could put a veteran politician to shame. It was a joy listening to him. He spoke about the current media scene and the commercialization of literature. He ended his speech thanking the youth as he said if it weren’t for them he would have never reached where he is now. At the end of the event I waited patiently as he bid adieu to almost everyone, speaking to everybody with the same jovial affability that seemed to be so integral in Jayanth Kaikini’s personality. After he was done we settled under a tree where we thought would be ideal to have a talk (and indeed even the mosquitoes who normally rule the night, did not disturb us much). Here are a few excerpts from the conversation that followed.

Tell us about your journey from Gokarna to Mumbai and then Bangalore.

I was born in Gokarna, spent my childhood there. In those days there weren’t many options in Bangalore, so after finishing my studies I went to Mumbai. I worked for a factory called Hoechste. Mumbai shaped the vision of life for me. Although Gokarna was a vibrant place, there was a fusion of the past and present. It was, after all, a pilgrimage centre like Udupi. But Mumbai was a liberating experience. In Mumbai, everyone is recognized only by the work they do. They have transcended the barriers of caste and religion. Men and women are treated alike because they work together. Mumbai is the epitome of the saying “work is worship”. In such an atmosphere I could write easily. Also at that time I was away from the mainstream Kannada literature, so I did not have to cater to any trend and could write as I wanted. I enjoyed life so I wrote to understand life better. In 2000, I came to Bangalore as an advisor to a television channel. And I have been staying there since.

How did you start writing songs for films?

When I was in Mumbai, I hadn’t started writing poems yet. I used to write prose or plays. Vyaasaraaya Ninjoor inspired me to write poems. He is a great writer, who did not receive the fame he deserved. In fact, there is also an enzyme named after him called the Ninjoor enzyme. It was after his inspiration that I started writing poems. When I came to Bangalore, I was exposed to the media. As everyone, I was a big film buff, only I never thought I would write songs for films myself. When Yograj Bhat, director of Mungaaru Male, came to me to write a song for the movie, I was a little hesitant. I wasn’t sure if being a 50 year old man, I could write a love song. But I did anyway, and that is how ‘Anisuthide’ came to happen. And the rest is history.

Can you tell us about your songs and how it was like to write them?

After Mungaaru Male I became a little choosy. I usually write songs only for good projects. Because a good song needs a good movie to sustain it and vice versa. Although I have written some 70 songs, only some 50 are in vogue because they are in good films. And in India songs easily outlive the films. In fact it is not any ideology that has united India, but Bollywood songs that have done the job. They remain the same whether in Kashmir or Kanyakumari. Bollywood songs have knit India together like never before and this is a phenomenon seen only here. We listen to and hum the songs and forget our daily routine, trying to find a few pleasurable minutes between the humdrum of life. Most of the time, we wouldn’t have seen the film itself. In India we have a unique and rich legacy of songs. And I am happy to be a part of it.

If we say that Gopalkrishna Adiga was the pioneer of the Navya kavya style of poetry, will it be true to say that you are the pioneer of the modern style in poetry.

No. my regular works, i.e. my other poems, are like Gopalkrishna Adiga’s poems. The poems that I have written in the past 30 years cannot be sung. They are blank verse-mukta chanda saara. While writing film songs, we have to write it to the tune that is given to us.

What are your other works?

I have written about 5 anthologies of short stories, 5 books of poetry, 3 plays and two non-fiction books. About 14-15 books in total.

And the Sahitya Academy award?

Yes I got the Sahitya Academy award for four of my works. One of them I got at the age of 19. So that one has become famous as I was really young at that time. Not that I am old now, of course!

What did you get the Filmfare award for?

I got it for Minchaagi neenu baralu from Gaalipata.

Have you been associated with the advertising world in any way earlier?

When I was in Mumbai, I used to voice over for advertisements. I also used to translate them into Kannada. After coming to Bangalore, I have done a lot of other things. I was an editor for a magazine called Bhavana. Then I was an advisor for ETV for some time. I also worked as a free-lance talk show anchor for ETV Kannada. Right now I am a member of the jury in Ede thumbi Haaduvenu, the talent show organized by SP Balasubramaniam.

What do you think makes your songs different and pleasurable to hear?

I try to bring out the abstraction in love. Once you use the word love there isn’t really much left to say. You might as well go to Archie’s and buy a greeting card. When a person is falling in love, there is a grey area in between which cannot be understood directly, and that is the most enigmatic part. As such you cannot literally analyze the meaning of the words, but the abstraction gives it a new meaning. I like the way Javed Akhtar and Gulzar write songs as they keep trying new expressions. I wish more good films would come, then good songs can last longer.

Do you feel, given the new trend in films and songs, the youth are coming back to Kannada?

Of course they are. There is now a trend, were listening to Kannada songs is considered fashionable. But it is more important that we speak Kannada at home. Kannada has now become a dining table or kitchen language. This is not a healthy trend. We should speak in Kannada at home. No matter what language the child speaks outside, or which medium he or she is studying in, parents and relatives should ensure their conversation is only in Kannada.

So do you think Kannada has a future? Especially now when English medium is given more importance and most of the teachers cannot even teach Kannada as a second language properly.

Yes indeed, Kannada does have a future. Kannada is the poor man’s language. As long as there is poverty in India, Kannada will be there. Being the elite few, who manage to get two square meals a day, when we speak of culture and language, it really does not make any sense. The real custodians of our language are the poor people.

Lastly, do you have any message for the youth?

No. I don’t believe giving any messages or even receiving any messages from others.

With this we concluded our little parley. I was left with a feeling that while he ostensibly did not give any message, his life itself was a message told to people in the same melodious words as his songs. It was a message loving your language and culture. As one may realize, I did not ask him about his future plans. He was a person who sprung surprises on people like a jack-in-the-box. So, I thought it would be better to wait and watch what is coming up next.

It was a Thursday evening…

Thus writes the Suhas…

It was a Thursday evening, and as in all Thursday evenings, a bunch of people, were sitting in a circle at the Special Stage. Someone had propped up the idea of discussing how the outer world i.e. the rest of the college views us. One of the guys got up and told us “Most of my friends view us as a kandu club”. We dismissed this idea with a derisive laugh, and instead started talking on how we ourselves view the movement. Some saw it as a society for music appreciation some saw it as a platform for personality development, some had a wholly spiritual perspective, and a few had very little idea on it. Here’s what I make of it.

If you travel from Jaipur to Kohima, or from Trivandrum to Jammu for that matter, a vast and diverse land stretches before you. Each phase of your journey has its own unique landscapes, industries and lifestyles. This diversity results in each region developing a culture each having a flavor unique of its own. Some of these have attained high levels of refinement and achieved immense popularity all over the country and beyond. Each one of us must have attended a performance, or at least heard of Hindustani and Carnatic music styles, dance forms like Bharathanatyam, Kathak, Kuchipudi et al. But how many of us have heard of a theatre form of Kerala called Kootiyattam? Not many, I’m sure. This has existed for nearly 2000 years and is the oldest existing theatre form in the world. It has reached such levels of refinement that it has defined unique expressions for even the elements of grammar, which cannot be found anywhere else. UNESCO has recognized it as one of the ‘Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’, given only to about 20 arts worldwide. We staying here in India all our lives have never even heard of it. Ditto for Ras Lila of Manipur, the martial arts of Punjab, and many more. What SPICMACAY does is to provide a platform for showcasing of such art forms to the youth, so that we are able to fully appreciate the richness of India.

It was 4:00 AM and the sun was just breaking across the horizon. A large number of people had gathered inside an enclosure. They had sat through concerts throughout the night; most of them were sleeping and the rest on the verge of it. A very old man was carried on to the stage, and this sight did little to get them out of their slumber. No sooner had the first notes issued from his mouth, people were jolted awake and for the next 3 hours he held the crowd spellbound. It was when, seeing the zest for life he had even at that age of 102, his dedication that enabled him to sing in the frigid mornings of Kohima I began to occur to me SPICMACAY is not about music alone. Sample another incident which happened around 10 years ago. Ustad Bismillah Khan, the Shehnai maestro, was to give a concert in Dehra Dun for SPICMACAY. The train which he supposed to board from Varanasi got cancelled. After a lot of delay, the organizers got him to Delhi in a flight .The only transport they could arrange to Dehra Dun was an old rickety bus. After a night long journey on jumpy roads, he reached the venue just in time for his concert .The organizers were apologetic and offered to postpone it. He saw the audience waiting for him and said “Dekhiye, I had told you that I will give you a concert on time if you get me to the venue. You have fulfilled your word, so I will fulfill mine”. Saying the 80 year old Bismillah Khan, forgetting his fatigue, got his shehnai and gave an enthralling concert for around 3 hours. It was a lesson in being true to ones word, no matter what the circumstances are, that he gave they learnt on that day .SPICMACAY gives us the chance to get in close contact with such great masters, from whom we learn a lot. Not that they have any intention of teaching us anything, mere observation of their daily routine inspires.

This summer, I was in Trivandrum for the national convention of SPICMACAY. All the stalwarts of Indian classical and folk arts had descended upon Kerala to be a part of this. As a part of this, Ustad Asad Ali Khan performed in the culminating program of the convention. As expected it was an astounding concert and everyone went gaga over it. But what really struck me was that the he did not seem to perform for the audience at all. He seemed to be playing the Rudra Veena for a different purpose altogether. Every note he played, a blissful expression encompassed his face; it appeared to me that to me that he was on quest if his own and music was just a path to reach it. Maybe it was a way to attain perfection, or maybe it was a way to surrender completely to an entity greater than him; maybe……

Similar to India itself, SPICMACAY inspires different notions in different people. The above experiences shaped my perceptions of the movement. Tell me yours…


This one comes from the passionate mind of TJ,  one of our many active volunteers..

Man is very communicative by nature. One finds meaning to sounds, associates memories to images, feelings to smells and tastes and summons emotions by touch. The exact feelings that one brings about is dictated by the environment one grows in. This is what we call culture.

History says that we, Indians, have a very rich and varied cultural root. This has been demonstrated well by the artists in SPICMACAY who bring back the primordial sounds that we fail to notice. In the past few generations, we’ve gone far too deep into modernization and have forgotten the gentle and soothing sounds of origin. Be it the rhythmic steps of a dancer to the equally feet tapping beats of a tabla or mrudhagam, the enticing melodies of strings like the violin to the swaying tunes emanating out of a harmonium. The rich voice of singers twisting around the audience putting them into a trance is most pleasing to the anxious heart.

When the tranquility in the mind is broken, one can easily find solace in our heritage that has been handed down the generations. Sadly, not many pursue in these ancient arts in the lust of westernization, which puts the art form in a tight spot, unable to propagate itself to the masses as it was designed to do.

On a personal note, I’ve found this serenity working with SPICMACAY, where we interact with artists and find out the truth behind the effort and dedication that the art deserves to perfect it beyond measure. The awe inspiring stories, and the many ‘Oh..’ moments that come by make every day very special and worth remembering. Peace of mind. Guaranteed.

Yamini @ IIMB

Bangalore has recently been buzzing with a lot of SPICMACAY activities and concerts. One of our many Bangaloreans, Aravind was at the Yamini concert series organized by the Indian Institute of Management(IIMB). From the horse’s mouth…
I came across the advertisement for Yamini 2010 organised by SPICMACAY Bangalore in The Hindu newspaper.Yamini is a yearly event conducted by SPICMACAY Bangalore on the eve of Republic Day. It is a series of concerts starting in the evening and going on through the night and is even advertised as “from  dusk to dawn”. This year it is part of the Heritage series of concerts that the Bangalore Chapter is organizing(I do not have details on this Heritage series… anyone who does is welcome to provide their input). Previous editions of Yamini have featured prominent artists like D K Pattamal, Bombay Jayashree, Bharatnatyam dancer Shobana, Hariprasad Chaurasia and many more. Visit http://www.iimb-yamini.com/ for more.

This year was the 7th edition of the festival and the performances were Carnatic Vocal by Nithyashree, Veena by E Gayatri, Hindustani Vocal by Anand Bhate and  Kathak by Shambhavi Vaze. The concerts were organised at the Open Air Theater (OAT) at IIMB. After hunting for and eventually finding some company, I went to IIMB to attend the first 2 concerts viz. Carnatic Vocal by Nithyashree and Veena by E Gayatri.

We did go around the campus before the start of the concert and saw all the locations that 3 Idiots was shot(the water tank, etc). The OAT had lush lawns in front. Chairs were organised at the back for seating and mattresses were laid out on the grass closer to the stage area. They had also arranged for pyres to be lit near the OAT so that the smoke would keep away the mosquitoes, although the smoke itself did prove a little irritating. The weather was quite cold and I had the sense to wear sweaters and stuff, as did most people there. Although later in the night, the volunteers did distribute blankets which was quite thoughtful.

The first concert by Nithyashree Mahadevan was melodious and her tunes impeccable. The melodious strains of the Veena did take the mind completely off the biting cold. I would have loved to have stayed for the remaining 2 concerts as well… but had to head back home. But…there’s always a next time!

P.S.: For those of you interested, SPICMACAY Bangalore Chapter holds weekly open meetings on Saturday evenings at the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishad.

Mangalore Auditions – My experience!

Probably inspired by Indian Idol or Hero Honda Roadies or some other reality show, ‘Team Aradhana 2K10’ planned to host auditions for performances at Udupi and Mangalore apart from NITK on Saturday, 23 January, 2010 at 2:30pm. A novel plan that became a BIG hit eventually!

But a certain local body chose that particular day to observe highway strike and our very own NH17 was literally freezed. Perhaps, they wanted to commemorate Netaji’s slogan – दिल्ली चलो!! by enforcing – मंगलौर/उडुपी मत चलो!!!on his birthday! Team Shaz et al worked out a fool-proof action plan to combat the sudden and unexpected roadblock. A handful of locos, in-charge of Udupi auditions were sent to Udupi the previous evening itself and Poonam, Monal and Kau MC went to their respective homes in Mangalore to take care of auditions in the city. [P. S.: Kau MC got a valid reason to visit home!] It was also decided that the inhabitants of Room no. 66, 3rd block (my 3rd yr asylum), Dhruv and TJ would join Poonam, Monal and Kau on 23rd at the venue.

I couldn’t resist myself and grabbed the offer of a bike ride to Mangalore by displacing TJ. My sources at Surathkal (Prashanth and a cab driver) reported that the road block was kinda serious and advised strongly not to venture out on the highway before 1pm. Then finally, with the efforts of Dhruv, we managed to jugg a bike (special thanks to Purujeet!) which had both ‘TVS Motors’ and ‘Suzuki Max 100’ logos on it but had neither a speedometer nor indicators. We also jugged a helmet from Macha Kiran (whose room I had conquered during the placement season!) which perfectly matched my attires. We (Dhruv and I) finally set out at around 1:45pm and reached Sharada Vidyalaya (the venue for Mangalore auditions) in time, just before the start of the auditions.

On reaching, we were just amazed by the meticulousness and perfection in arrangements at the venue by Poonam and Monal. All entry points at the school had placards put up with the SPICMACAY logo and arrows pointing towards the audition room. The walls the corridor near the audition rooms had a detailed rules sheet put up. In short, the arrangements at the venue were just perfect! There was overwhelming turnout for music auditions both in terms of number and quality. Unfortunately, Brinda Kamath cut down her yesteryears’ packages to only Carnatic vocal. The other familiar faces included Vijit Kumar with his ‘Pranaam’ salaami tukda, Keshav who seemed more scared of his bro (Kau MC) than even the judge, and a few more. The dance auditions had a disappointing turnout in terms of number and we all took turns to entertain the judge and finally, she was deployed at the music auditions room. Kamath brought a pair of sleek speakers for the dance auditions which failed to work and he promptly replaced them with stout, old ones which worked. Overall, the auditions went well and we got some really good talents adding truly vibrant colours to the performances. Poonam and Monal deserve a word of thanks because along with the judges, they had arranged for snacks for us too!

After the auditions and after bidding goodbye to the two rocking girls (Poonam and Monal), we, the remaining ones barged into Kamath’s house, where we had a GD on the topic – ‘Joblessness of the Final Year Students of Dept. of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, NITK Surathkal’. The GD session was followed by a presentation (physical) of various South Indian sweets (of which I could recognize only Mysore pak) and a traditional Konkani brownish-orange drink – Panaka. Following this, Kau took us on an ‘Interior Mangalore’ trip that ended at his home where we gave feedback on Keshav’s performance at the auditions, watched TV and enjoyed the home-made (atleast a billion times better) version of the sada-dosa with gunpowder, oil and coconut chutney that we get in mess.

Then we rode back to college at around 8:30pm. It was real fun and I got a true feel of final year! Kudos to everyone involved in Aradhana 2010!!

– Abhishek Das

Namaste world!

Namaste folks…and welcome to our blog!

So why does the SPICMACAY Mangalore chapter need a blog of its own? Well, we’ve put ourselves on the blog sphere with an intention of keeping fellow bloggers and the blog-hoppers abreast with who we are and what we do here at SPICMACAY Mangalore Chapter. From informal concert reports to random musings at the beach to performance photos, here you’ll find thoughts, musings, views, contemplations, ruminations and basically anything we’d like to share.

So what’s different? What sets this blog apart is its Indian soul, which every post will never forget. As I type this post, I might be listening to Aerosmith on my laptop, but it doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the melodic beauty of raag Bhairavi. My playlist may contain Mark Knopfler, but it also has a Balamuralikrishna kriti

No, we’re not narrow-minded firebrand fanatics who’re going gung-ho about ‘being Indian’ and make a big hue and cry about it. Neither are we the FabIndia-kurta wearing ‘intellectual’ types who make passionately long speeches without meaning any word of what they preach. We’re the sane bunch of people who didn’t let the phir-bhi-dil-hai-hindustani fact get shrouded beneath our Adidas tees, Nike floaters and Levi’s cargos.

…so as we embark on this new Desi journey… Namaste! Hope you’ll stay with us! 🙂