Yesterday, among one of the WhatsApp group messages, there was one message that stood out.
Jishnu (My brother-in-law’s son, a Class VIII student) got first price in Kathakali music in a school ‘kalotsavam’. A video clip also was uploaded. As I listened to the famous ‘Marimankanni’ being unfolded beautifully, my mind was transported back to about four decades.
If I remember right, it was in 1979, we came back to India on a two month holiday from Indonesia where I was employed. As usual in those days, generally people coming back on holidays from abroad, there were several gift items which were mandatory to be part of our luggage. A radio or a tape recorder or a 2 - in – 1 was invariably included. We too had brought a tape recorder where we could record and play back songs as sung by family members and also conversations, gossip sessions etc.
My brother-in-law Ravi (fondly called Unni), all of 8 or 9 years at that time, had come visiting us with his mother. I had been told that he is very much interested in Kathakali music and a highly talented singer even at that young age. I was personally very much interested in Kathakali (even now I am) and so, I requested him to sing.
He sang a padam from ‘Nalacharitam’ story – Siva Siva enthu cheyvu njaan... – and the famous dandakam ‘kshoneendra patniyude....’ from ‘Keechakavadham’. These were sung by him superbly, for his age. I had recorded it and used to play it to my friends and used to tell that here is a great singer-in-the-making. I am sure I still have that cassette. But as we had moved houses several times later in life, it would need a bit of searching to find it.
Unni went on to win first prize in Kathakali music later in school ‘kalotsavam’ after six or seven years. For many years now he is a well-known Kathakali musician Athippatta Ravi (He is also a teacher and a poet) and had sung the two ‘Aattakathas’ written by me which were staged several times in Mumbai and Palakkad.
Also, if I am not mistaken, his daughter Uma also sings and had won a prize last year.
Now his son Jishnu has won the first prize in kalotsavam and given his background, I can confidently say that here there are two more good singers for the near future.....