Kala Samvada: Conversations on Art with Distinguished Musicians

Session 8: Begum Parveen Sultana and Shri Shashi Vyas at Kala Samvada 

The ‘Kala Samvada—Conversations on Art’ session on 18 December 2020 featured renowned Hindustani classical singer of the Patiala Gharana Padma Shri Begum Parveen Sultana, in conversation with Shri Shashi Vyas, an Indian classical music impresario. The session commenced with a prayer and introduction of the guests by Shri Swapnil Chaphekar (Assistant Professor and Head, School of Kalayoga).

Shri Vyas initiated the conversation asking the Begum Sultana about her first concert experience. Begum Sultana reminisced about her guru and father who taught and supported her. Her first concert was in Kolkata in 1962, when she was merely 12-years-old. She recalled the legendary artists such as Ustad Salamat Ali, Ustad Bade Gulam Ali Khan Saheb and Pandit Omkarnath Thakur who were in the audience.

She suggested that young students must concentrate on practice instead of award and performances, adding, “Riyaz karoge toh raj karoge” and “Practice is like a fixed deposit which gives returns later”. She also stressed the importance of education for musicians. In the end, she spoke about the Chinmaya Naada Bindu Gurukula, saying she experienced positive vibes when she visited the CNBG campus to perform in the Naada Bindu Festival. She observed the dedication of the students and faculty in learning and teaching music.

The session ended with a Shanti mantra.


Session 7: A Beautiful Evening on the Aesthetics of Carnatic Music in Mohiniyattam

The seventh session in the ‘Kala Samvada—Conversations on Art’ series held on 4 December 2020, had Dr. Neena Prasad and Shri Changanassery Madhavan Nampoothiri, speaking on ‘Aesthetics of Carnatic Music in Mohiniyattam’.

Dr. Neena Prasad is the foremost representative of Mohiniyattam in the country. She has undergone rigorous training in four different classical styles—Mohiniyattam, Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi and Kathakali. Her performances, both international and national, have received much appreciation in the art circuits. She has been the recipient of many prestigious awards. She has received a Post-doctoral Research Fellowship from the University of Surrey. Dr. Prasad is an empanelled artist of ICCR in the established category and a Top Graded artist of Doordarshan. She is a faculty and guide for research scholars and currently the Chairperson of the Board of Studies of Fine Arts, Calicut University.


Shri Changanassery Madhavan Nampoothiri is a renowned Carnatic musician and composer. He has been an acclaimed name in the field of Carnatic music for over two decades. He is a senior disciple of Padma Bhushan Sangeetha Kalanidhi Shri T. V. Sankaranarayanan (TVS). He also gained professional training from Shri P. R. Kumara Kerala Varma and Shri Kalanjoor Chandrasekharan. Apart from his greatly appreciated performances in India, he has performed on numerous dignified international stages in Paris, South East Asia and the Gulf countries. Currently, he serves as a Music faculty at the RLV College of Music and Fine Arts.

The two artists started with Carnatic Sangeetha and how it has contributed to many art forms by being a medium as well as how exemplary it is as an art form in itself. Carnatic music is performed in different ways and items in concert mode but when it comes to Mohiniyattam, the music highlights the dance form and makes the experience even more enjoyable. The first item in the Mohiniyattam repertoire is Cholkettu. They discussed how the Ragas and talas for this item are different. A video performance of Dr. Neena performing a Cholkettu was played.

Shri Madhavan moved on to talk about various jati and tala in their musical compositions. For them, coming up with performances and music for jati svaram was a learning experience and they have created them in nearly five ragas. Next, they moved on to kirtis. The kirtis are performed in between Cholketu and the main pada varnam. They are usually devotional. Shri Madhavan explained how to create them, and how the vocalist is supposed to support the dancer, so he has to keep in mind the appropriateness of the vocals to the content performed by the dancer while exploring or developing a raga for it. A video of a mesmerising performance by Dr. Neena on a kirti on Lord Shiva was played.

Then they spoke about the last and main item of the Mohiniyattam repertoire—the pada varnam. Shri Madhavan emphasized the importance of selecting the right raga. In the end, they demonstrated scenes from two of their works—Shakuntala and Amrapali. The abhinaya by Dr. Neena and the music rendered by Shri Madhavan was mind-blowing!

The Kala Samvada series is organised by the School of Kalayoga under the OLA (Open Learning for All) initiative of Chinmaya Vishwavidyapeeth. This session was moderated by Ms. Abha Mohan, Assistant Professor, School of Contemporary Knowledge Systems. Apart from being a fulltime academician, she is a passionate ‘Mohiniyattam’ performer, undergoing meticulous training under Dr. Neena Prasad for the past 18 years. She has performed in many prestigious National Dance Festivals of India. Shri Swapnil Chaphekar, Assistant Professor and Head, School of Kalayoga gave the Vote of Thanks and ended the session with a prayer.


Session 6: Kala Samvada—A Conversation with Taalyogi Pt. Suresh Talwalkar

The ‘Kala Samvada—Conversation on Art’ session of 20 November 2020 presented the renowned Tabla maestro, Padma Shri Taalyogi Pt. Suresh Talwalkar in conversation with Shri Keshav Paranjpe.

Pt. Talwalkar is one of the greatest Tabla exponents of the present times. As an accomplished artist and a Guru, he has contributed immensely to the glorious tradition of Indian Classical Music. He belongs to the illustrious ‘Keertankar’ family of Shri Dholebuva.’ Shri Paranjape is Honorary Secretary of the music circle ‘Swarmauli’ for over 30 years and a sought after compere of thematic musical programmes, among other things.

The conversation centered on the topic, ‘Sangeet, Shiksha and Vidya Daan’. The discussion started with a short explanation on the role of Shastra, Tantra, Vidya and Kala in classical music.

Pt. Suresh Talwalkar highlighted the role of the Guru and shishya, to continue the Guru-Shishya Parampara. He pointed out the three qualities of a Guru (knowledgeable, skilled at teaching and willing to teach) and the six qualities of a student (surrender, devotion, effort, sincerity, punctuality and loyalty).

In response to Shri Keshav’s question about the importance of living with the Guru and learning music, he explained the importance of Gurukulas and the reason for staying with the Guru, in terms of how a student benefits by living with the Guru. He stressed that music is not a job, it’s a way of life; one cannot do it part-time.

The session ended with a Q&A with the participants. In response to a question from the viewer, Pt. Talwalkar explained what is meant by chhanda in Taal and dhun in Raag. He said that chhanda in Taal means a listener can understand the Taal easily without counting the matra (beats) while a dhun in Raag means the listener can easily hum the tune.


A report in the Marathi daily ‘Sakal’ published on 26 November 2020

Session 5: ‘Kala Samvada—Conversation on Art—Featuring Vidushi Manjusha Patil

The ‘Kala Samvada—Conversation on Art’ session on 6 November 2020 was a conversation between leading Hindustani classical vocalist of Gwalior and Agra Gharana, Vidushi Manjusha Kulkarni-Patil and Shri Shashi Vyas. Shri Shasi Vyas interviewed Vidushi Manjusha. The discussion started with the memories of Manjusha taleem (training) in the Gurukula with Pt. D. V. Kane Buwa. It was a pleasant surprise when she demonstrated some nuances of her Gharana by singing them. It was a treat for music lovers.


Smt. Manjusha highlighted the importance of Gurukulas in the pedagogy of Indian music. In response to Shri Shashi’s question about the difference between a teacher and a Guru, she explained how a teacher gives knowledge of the subject while a Guru provides knowledge of the subject and imparts a vision for art as well as for life. The Guru takes on the responsibility of the disciple’s growth as a performing artist and does everything necessary for the student to evolve.


In the end, Smt. Manjusha introduced the audience to the unique aspect of CVV in the teaching of music—that of blending a university education with the Gurukula model—to produce artists that are skilled in the art and trained in the peripheral requirements of developing a career in music.

Session 4: A Lec-Dem on ‘The Veena—It’s Evolution and Styles’ by Dr. R. S. Jayalakshmi

The evening of 23 October 2020, was a soulful one with Dr. R. S. Jayalakshmi who gave a lec-dem on ‘The Veena—It’s Evolution and Styles’. Dr. Jayalakshmi is a musician and research scholar. She is a retired faculty from the Department of Music, University of Madras, and currently working as faculty at the University of Silicon Andhra, California (USA) and is a faculty at the Advanced School of Carnatic Music, The Music Academy, Chennai.

Dr. R. S. Jayalakshmi started her presentation with ‘yazh’, an open-stringed polyphonous instrument, from which the veena is said to have originated. The various varieties of the yazh like makara yazh, sengotta yazh, kurinji y and so on, were explained. The Dhruva veena and the Chala veena, as explained in the Natya Sastra as having 22 strings, were also mentioned. There were references to the Eka Tantri Veena and Sahasra Tantri Veena. The Saraswati veena, the one that we commonly see today, is attributed to Shri Govinda Dikshitar, who lived in the 15th to 16th century. Govinda Dikshitar gifted this Veena to Raghunatha Naik, the ruler of that period.

Dr. R. S. Jayalakshmi also showed the four styles of playing the veena namely, the Mysore style, the Andhra style, the Kerala style and The Tamil Nadu style. In replying to a viewer’s question, she spoke on the ‘gamakas’, which is the blood and bone of Carnatic music. Kum. Charulatha, the grand-daughter and student of Dr. Jayalakshmi supported the presentation by playing the examples as suggested by the latter. She concluded her session with a small piece on Tanam by Kum. Charulatha.

Dr P. N. Prabhavathy introduced the artiste and moderated the Q&A session. Shri Srinath Mohandas, the moderator gave the Vote of Thanks thus ending the fourth session of Kala Samvada—Conversations on Art.


Session 3: Chinmaya Anugraha for Nrutya Anubhava

The renowned dancer, Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam kept the audience riveted when she spoke on ‘Chinmaya Anugraha for Nrutya Anubhava’ at the Kala Samvada session held on 9 October 2020. She shared the many blissful experiences she had with Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda throughout her dance career.

Smt. Ramaa Bharadvaj, a performer, choreographer, folk storyteller, author and art curator introduced Dr. Padma. An ardent follower of Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda for over 45 years, Smt. Ramaa Bharadvaj is also a disciple of Dr. Padma.

Dr. Padma gave a complete sketch of her family’s association with Gurudev. Her brothers were regular attendees of Gurudev’s sessions. Her elder brother gifted her ‘Gita for Children’, a book written by Gurudev. Dr. Padma extolled that she strongly recommends that the book be a part of the curriculum for children as it can channelise the extraordinary intelligence of the present generation.

Further, she spoke about Swami Chinmayananda’s role in three of her major dance productions— Krishnaya Tubhyam Nama, Ramaya Tubhyam Nama and Jaya Jaya Sankara. With much fondness, she recollected how Gurudev visited her home to watch Krishnaya Tubhyam Namaha. The portion from Ezhuthachan’s Ramayanam which she included in the Ramaya Tubhyam Nama: presentation, to add hasya rasa for the piece, was an addition suggested by Gurudev. She explained how she met Swami Dayananda Saraswati, as advised by Swami Chinmayananda when she showed her interest in choreographing the works of Adi Sankaracharya. This work was named ‘Jaya Jaya Sankara’ by Gurudev.

Moving on, she explained the sculptural codification of Natyasastra and how it is related to the sculptures of Tanjore, Kumbhakonam and Chidambaram. She said that these places are like a library for a dancer.

Rachana Narayanan Kutty, a Kuchipudi dancer and a popular actress from the Malayalam film industry, took select questions from the participants and interacted with Dr. Padma. Answering the questions, Dr. Padma elaborated on how music as a medium helps to communicate the meaning of the lyrics to the viewers, whatever be the language of the song. She also said Art, Artiste and Connoisseur are equally important for the existence of all art.


This session of Kala Samvada was an evening of bhakti, dance and cherished memories.

Session 2: Conversation with Padma Vibhushan Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma

The second session of ‘Kala Samvada-Conversations on Art’, held on 11 September 2020, had the Santoor maestro Padma Vibhushan Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma in conversation with renowned musician, actor, director and multifaceted personality Padma Shri Shekhar Sen.

The conversation started with the unfolding of Pandit Shivkumar’s early years of learning music when he emphasised upon the importance of a Guru in music. The questions by Shri Shekhar and later by the participants, helped to understand Pandit Shivkumar’s thoughts on creativity, pedagogy, innovation, and the true purpose of music. His suggestion to take up music as a spiritual pursuit was an important and inspiring one for the new generation of artists, many of whom look at music from the commercial angle alone.



A report of the event was published in a Marathi daily ‘Sakal’.

Session 1: A Lec-Dem with Maestro Dr. Patri Satish Kumar

On 28 August 2020, the School of Kalayoga launched a fortnightly series called ‘Kala Samvada—Conversations on Art’, under CVV’s ‘Open Learning for All (OLA)’ initiative. Coordinated by Assistant. Professor Dr. P. N. Prabhavathy, the idea behind this initiative is to bring art and the living legends of art to our drawing rooms. It is meant to provide the general public with an opportunity to get a closer look at our traditional art forms, listen to and interact with great artistes and thereby inspire youngsters and aspirants to appreciate them. The success stories of world-renowned artists could prompt children to choose art as a career option too.

The opening session, showcasing mridangam maestro Dr. Patri Satish Kumar was a lecture-demonstration on ‘Percussion Skills for Music and Dance’. The series was inaugurated by Swami Sharadananda, Acharya at the Kerala Sandeepany and was presided over by CVV’s Vice Chancellor Prof. Nagaraj Neerchal. Dean Prof. Gauri Mahulikar, Sri Swapnil Chaphekar, Assistant Professor and Head of the School of Kalayoga, Smt. Pramodini Rao, Campus Director of CNBG, Pune, were present. The session was anchored by Shri Srinath Mohandas, Assistant Professor, School of Contemporary Knowledge Systems.

In this lec-dem, Dr. Patri provided exhaustive information starting with the origins of Mridangam as an instrument with references to scriptures and mythology and its evolution into the current form.

He provided tips on training methods, attitude, observation skills etc. for aspiring percussionists. To illustrate, he often quoted events from his own life and upbringing as a young mridangist.

Although most of the famous mridangists play at music concerts, he surprisingly revealed that playing for dance concerts is perhaps a more daunting task and requires high-speed playing skills combined with great reflexes and intense observation. He went on to say that sensitivity towards the mind of the co-performer on stage is what makes a great mridangam artiste.

Dr. Prabhavathy took up select questions from viewers and interacted with Dr. Patri. Answering these questions he elaborated on the different lineages (bani-s) of playing the instrument. He played on a two-century-old instrument to demonstrate and explained how it was played in the olden times. He concluded by explaining the shadkala-s or the six speeds of playing possible for the human hand.

Patiently explaining and responding to questions, Dr. Patri made the opening session of Kala Samvada a memorable one, setting high standards for the upcoming sessions. The fortnightly series will continue to showcase legendary artists from all over India throwing light on various art forms.

Register here:  bit.ly/kala-samvada




Read the reports of the Kala Samvada—Conversations on Art of 2021here.