An Inspired Pallavi

Our Advanced Pallavi competition was inspired by a story that the great dancer and guru Adyar Lakshman told us about a young T.R. Subrahmanyam (later confirmed by T.R.S. himself).

Much before he became the eminent Professor and well-known laya expert, the young T.R.S. was an entrant in the Pallavi competition at the Madras Music Academy. Applicants were supposed to submit their contact info, and the details of the pallavi they were going to perform (sahityam, raga, tala, eduppu). As T.R.S. was seated, the judges saw that his application only contained his name, and the sahityam of the pallavi.

When the judges (among whom were the Alathur Brothers) asked him what the particulars of the pallavi were, T.R.S. merely said "whatever ragam you want me to sing, I'll sing." They gave him Mukhari.

T.R.S. performed his raga alapana and thanam in Mukhari, and then asked what talam to sing his pallavi in. The Alathur Brothers, deciding that this young man needed a challenge, asked him to sing his pallavi set to sankeerna chapu talam in sankeerna nadai.

T.R.S. agreed, and proceeded to sing a flawless pallavi with the sahityam he had written, set to the raga and tala that the judges had selected. While singing the pallavi, he was showing a simple sankeerna chapu talam in his hands, while the judges, stalwart laya experts themselves, were scrambling to show the sankeerna nadai with it, to make sure that this young man was singing it correctly.

At the end of the competition after all the participants had finished, someone came and asked the judges who had won the competition. A judge responded, "who else could have won but Subrahmanyam?"

We don't expect all of our participants to be the next T.R.S. We do hope though, that his example of confidence and creativity in the face of these strict constraints will inspire the participants to reach for a higher level of achievement in the art of Ragam-Thanam-Pallavi.