The tradition bound culturally rich Tanjore district is not only known as the Granary of South India but is also famous for its greenery and the rich musical heritage. In the Trichy-Tanjore route if one gets down at Budalur railway station and reaches Thirukkattuppalli he will surely be attracted by the row of villages like Nemam, Pazhamarneri, Onbathuveli, Ranganathapuram, Sendhalai, Kandamangalam, Koviladi, Kokkarasanpettai (Agarappettai now), Elangadu...et al. on either sides.
Out of these villages, Nemam stands apart as the birthplace of starlwarts from the same family in three successive generations in the field of music about whom we are going to deal now .This village Nemam houses the famous temple of Sri Airaavadeeswarar and his consort Sri Alankari amman. It is here that Nemam Subramaniya Iyer was born. He had the privilege of learning music from Sadguru Sri Thyagaraja Swamigal as one of his devoted disciples. In the musical literature “Gaayaka Siddhanjanam” part 2 published in 1905 by the renowned Tachur brothers, Tachur Singaracharyulu had stated that Nemam Subramaniya Iyer was an excellent musician in rendering Ragam and Pallavi and an expert in singing Sadguru Sri Thyagaraja swamigal’s krithis. Rao Sahib Abraham Pandithar in his “Karunaamrutha Saagaram” an outstanding work in the realm of Indian Musicology published in 1917 had also made a special reference about Subramaniya Iyer. Similarly Professor P.Sambamurthy in his “Great Composers” part 2 had mentioned about Nemam Subramaniya Iyer.
Nemam Subramaniya Iyer was honoured by several Royal patrons including the rulers of Mysore and Travancore, the Zamorins of Kozhikkode, Rajas of Nilambur, Kollangode and princes of various samasthanams. Sri Manik Varma, the then Maharaja of Kozhikkode has composed a sloka in Sanskrit in praise of Nemam Subramaniya Iyer (which was tuned in Kaapi ragam set to Adi talam).
His son Nemam Nataraja bhagavathar was also an expert in singing Thyagaraja kruthis. He was the Asthana vidwan of Sringeri peetam when H.H.Sri Sachidananda Sivabhinava Bharathitheertha swamigal was the Mahasannidhanam.
On 15.07.1907 N.S.Ramachandran was born as the first son of Nemam Nataraja Bhagavathar-Lakshmi couple at Kudumiyanmalai. Rajammal, Neela, Rukmini and Sarada were his siblings. Ramachandran did his schooling at Hindu high school, Triplicane, Chennai and after graduating from The Presidency College, Madras, successfully completed his M.A.(Hons) from the University of Madras. With the able guidance of veteran musician Tiger Varadachariar for over 2 years , N.S.Ramachandran authored the treatise “Ragas of Karnatic Music” at the tender age of 31. This monumental work that showcased Ramachandran’s scholarly research and erudition earned accolades not only from musicians, musicologists and the layman alike but also from eminent scientist and Nobel laureate Sir C.V.Raman too...!.
N.S.Ramachandran served as the Station Director of All India Radio in several kendras. He then became the Chief Producer of Carnatic Music in the Directorate General of All India Radio New Delhi. Later he was also appointed as the Dean of the faculty of music in Delhi University. During his stint in A.I.R Trichy he directed several musical dramas like “Nauka Charitam”, “Kaaveri”, “Laila Majnu” to mention a few , that won great acclaim from the public. He was deputed by the Union Government under the Columbo Plan to study the working of Radio Ceylon and suitably advise the then Ceylon government on the planning, organisation and broadcast of Tamil programmes on Ceylon radio. He ushered in several revolutionary changes in the Ceylon Broadcasting system dividing commercial broadcasts and general broadcasts separately. The then Ceylon Government applauded and admired Ramachandran’s work and thanked him for his valuable contribution.
N.S.Ramachandran was a leading Veena vidwan. He has given several veena recitals in All India Radio. His admirers included Vainikas like Veena S.Balachander, Karaikudi Sambasiva Iyer, etc ., to mention a few. Being well versed in Tamil, Sanskrit and Telugu, Ramachandran has composed more than 200 songs including varnams, Thillanas and thukkadas. Out of which 53 selected kruthis including 4 varnams were published in book form with Saahithya-Swara notations in the name of “Sangeetha Pushpanjali” The Thirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam has adopted his Abhogi raga kruthi “Sri Maha Ganapathe” set to Kanda Chapu taalam, played by Nadhaswaram maestro Namagirippettai Krishnan for the temple’s Garuda Vaahana Utsava Bhavani.
In recognition of his achievements, the Tamilnadu Government awarded the prestigious “Kalaimamani” in 1971. He was affectionately referred to as “Gaanalola” by music lovers worldwide. He had contributed many research papers on various topics related to Carnatic music and have presented them during the December music season at the Music Academy Madras.
NSR’s Sunaathavinodhini varnam “Gana naayaka” was a regular item in Maharajapuram Santhanam’s concert agenda. If the Abhogi raga kruthi “Sri Maha Ganapathe” and Dayavathi raga Thillana were Dr.M.L.Vasanthakumari’s favourites, “Sri Chandrasekhara Yatheendram Asraye’ in Sankarabharanam was Dr M.S.Subbulakshmi’s most sought after devotional...and the list is endless.
Words of Praise for the book Sangeetha Pushpanjali from other musicians:
A notable publication. The songs are remarkable for the freshness and asthetic excellence of their melody –“Sangita Kalanidhi” T L Venkatarama Iyer (Supreme Court Judge)
Prof. N S Ramachandran has been working for the past two years under me as a research scholar in Indian Music. He is a great composer - Tiger Varadachariar
The compositions adhere to the pure traditions of Carnatic music and at the same time they are fresh and original - Tiruppambaram N Swaminatha Pillai
His compositions are full of raga bhava and give an insight into his scholarship in sangita and sahitya - Mysore K Vasudevacharya
The kritis are imposed in a variety of ragas attractively with laya-chitra ornamentation. Noted for his deep sense of respect and regard for sampradaya in music, N S Ramachandran has introduced in these compositions certain new ragas, and they are really to my liking –“Sangita Kalanidhi” Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar
These songs in Tamil, Telugu and Sanskrit are rich in sahitya bhava and are of a high standard of excellence –“Sangeetha Bhoopathy” Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer
The words chosen are simple and yet full of value and significance. A few new ragas have been very successfully attempted in these compositions –“Sangeetha Kalanidhi” Musiri Subramanya Iyer
The compositions possess an individuality of their own but reflect pure tradition. They evoke unbounded admiration –“Sangita Kalanidhi” Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer
The compositions by Prof. NSR are admirable for their melodic beauty and richness of sahitya – “Isaip Perarignar”M M Dandapani Desikar
These compositions do not deviate in any manner from the old sampradaya. They are full of raga bhava and are pure from the aspect of laya. The lyrics and the melody are set in beautiful combination - Tiruvizhimalai Subramanya Pillai
The lyrical setting of the songs is admirably balanced by its rich and flowing sangita with a chaste and emotional sahitya - T K Jayarama Iyer
Professor N S Ramachandran has a genius for original creations in the realm of music - Professor P Sambamoorthy.
Listeners get the feeling that they are listening to the composition of Saint Tyagaraja Swamy – “Sangita Kalanidhi” Dwaram Venkatasamy Naidu
Once, Smt M.S.Subbulakshmi and Shri T.Sadasivam had gone to Thenambakkam to have darshan of Sri Kanchi Paramacharya. M.S.Subbulakshmi started to render N.S.Ramachandran’s composition “Sri Chandrasekhara Yatheendram aasraye” in Sankarabharanam infront of His Holiness. The Paramacharya who was standing on the other side of a well that separated Him from others was enjoying the song with rapt attention. All of a sudden, the overhead tank that was full started overflowing and there was a ‘Jala Dhaara” on the Sage of Kanchi himself. Unperturbed by the waterfall he signalled MS to continue singing and Lo..! it was a rare sight...a sort of Panneer abhishekam to Lord Shiva himself..!
“Ramachandra”, “Nataraja Thanaya” and “Vaibhoga Ranga” were NSR’’s Mudhras that he used in his compositions and varnams.
N.S.Ramachandran attained the lotus feet of Goddess Saraswathi in May 1981.
Some of N.S.Ramachandran’s compositions are given below:
Intha bharama Sri
Sri Janaki manohara
Maha tripura sundari
Sri Raja rajeshwari
About the author
SHANKAR VENKATRAMAN, a practising company secretary by profession, hails from a family with musical lineage. On the maternal side, his mother’s great grandfather Nemam Subramania Iyer was one of the last disciples of Saint Thyagaraja Swamigal. His maternal grandfather Nemam Nataraja Bhagavathar was the disciple of Mahavaidhyanatha Sivan and an Asthana Vidhwan of Sringeri Samasthanam. His son “Kalaimaamani” Prof N.S.Ramachandran was the Director of different Kendras of All India Radio and the Dean and Director of Music Department, University of Delhi. He had composed many kruthis out of which “Sri Chandrasekhara Yatheendram Aashrayae”on Sri Kanchi Paramacharya in Sankarabharanam popularized by Dr.M.S.Subbulakshmi and “Sree Maha Ganapathae..” in Aabhogi an evergreen hit of M.L.Vasanthakumari are very popular.
Shankar Venkatraman’s father (Late) K.V.Venkatraman, son of Kanjanur-Kottur S.Vaithyanatha Swamy Iyer was an ardent devotee of Sri Kanchi Paramacharya and had served as the Correspondence-in-charge for Sri Paramacharya while Shri Periyavaa was camping in Kumbakonam during 1930-31(When Periyavaa was referred as Kumbakonam Periyavaa). Sri Sengalipuram Anantharama Deekshithar is Vaithyanathaswamy Iyer’s maternal cousin.
Shankar did his schooling at Vidya Mandir, Mylapore (1968-1982) Chennai and obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce from Loyola College, Chennai. He did his Company Secretary course from the Institute of Company Secretaries of India, Chennai-600034.
Shankar Venkatraman’s publications:
1. “Thirai Ulagil Isaik Kalaignargal”.
Serialised first in the tamil music-dance magazine “Sarigamapadhani”, this project consists of a brief life history of more than 100 musicians (who contributed or made an impact, either directly or indirectly in the tinsel world) as the first part and their filmography as the second. This serial “Thirai Kadalil Isai Muththukkal” was published as “Thirai Ulagil Isaik Kalaignargal” and released on 17-01-2002 under the auspices of Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha during their dance festival held at the Mylapore Fine Arts auditorium. (Shri P.H.Pandian was the chief guest)
2. “Semmangudi Oru Sagaabdham”
Biography of Semmangudi Sreenivasa Iyer as narrated by Sri “Semmangudi Maama” himself from November 2002 upto first week of October 2003. Released by H.E. (Dr) Ramamohan Rao, the then Governor of Tamilnadu during the December 2003 Isai Vizha under the auspices of Brahma Gana Sabha.
3. “Engum Nirai Naadha Brahmam”
“Bharat Rathna” M.S.Subbulakshmi’ s biography compiled under the able guidance of Shri T.Sadasivam and MS Amma during frequent visits to their home. First published as “Isai Arasi” (48 page booklet) in Sarigamapadhani & released as a full fledged biography under the caption ‘Engum Nirai Naadha Brahmam” in 2006 (MSS’ 90th birthday spl) at a function held at Hotel New Woodlands, chennai
4.“Upanyasa Chakravarthy- Anantharama Deekshithar
Biography of Sengalipuram Brahmasri Anantharama Deekshithar. Released during the December Isai Vizha of Sri Krishna Gana Sabha in 2006 under the chairmanship of shri R.Yagnaraman.
5.“Sabhaa Naayagar” (spl book on Ranganathapuram Yagnaraman of Sri Krishna gana sabha) A tribute-commemoration volume released on June 30,2008
6. LALGUDI-80-spl commemorative volume (October 2009-Sri Krishna Gana Sabha) Released by Dr.N.Ramanathan and Mrs.Sujatha Vijayaraghavan.
7. COLOSSUS OF CARNATIC MUSIC-Biography of MS released on Nov 29,2009 under the auspices of Hamsadhwani (Mr. R.Natraj-I.P.S.,Mrs. YGP and Mrs. Sujatha Vijayaraghavan were the Chief Guests))
8. “Sangeetha Saagaram---Semmangudi”—biography of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer in Tamil—released on 14th August 2010 under the aegis of Sri Krishna Gana Sabha (Mr. Balasubramanian, C/MD, City Union Bank, GuruKaraikudi R.Mani and Isai Gnaani Ilayaraja ---spl function)
9. "Harikatha Chakravarthy" biography of Sri Embar Vijayaraghavachariar released on 24th June 2013 under the aegis of Sri Krishnagana sabha (Sri N.Gopalaswami former Chief Election Commissioner of India, Vidhushi R.Vedavalli and Dr Nalli Chettiar were the Chief guests)
10. “Naadagame Ulagam” Biography of actor Neelu. Published by Alliance co. Mylapore.
Project completed: “Lalgudi orr Isaip pettagam” biography of Lalgudi jayaraman (frm 1804 till date) —to be released shortly)
On going projects-----Biography of “Gaana Kalaa Dhara” Madurai Mani Iyer captioned “Eppo Varuvaaro ?” Also the Full life history of Director K.Subrahmanyam is in progress.
Sri Sriperumbhudur Jeear had honoured Shankar with the title,”SANGEETHAAMRUTHA RATHNA” in the year 2006.
Honoured by Sri Shanmukhananda Fine Arts Mumbai, during MSSubbulakshmi centenary
· Was the editor of “Sarigamapadhani” magazine from January 1999-December 2003
· Presented a one-hour CENTENARY SPECIAL programme “Sangitha Saagaram Semmangudi” to commemorate the 100th yr birth day celeberations of the Doyen of Carnatic Music Sri Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer on Podhigai TV on 27th July 2008 (which was re-telecast twice)
· Presented a special Independence day programme—“Sudhanthira Geetham” with rare audio clippings of K.B.Sundarambal, N.C.Vasanthakokilam, D.K.Pattammal, M.S.Subulakshmi, M.K.Thyagaraja Bhagavathar and G.N.Balasubramaniam on Podhigai TV.(August 15, 2008)
· Presented a 6 week serial “Engum Nirai Naadha Brahmam” on the life history of MS with interviews of eminent personalities on Podhigai Tv.
· Presented a one-hour lecdem on Semmangudiyin Nagaichuvai (Humour and Semmangudi) in tamil at the Lecdem mela held at TAG Centre, chennai-600018 on 21st December 2010 to a well attended audience.
· Scripted “Naattin Thuymai Nam Vazhvin Menmai” from 10th week till 20thweek that was telecast on Podhigai TV in June-July 2010
· Scripted :Nilaavil veedu Kattovam” a hilarious comedy drama telecast on Podhigai TV on Deepavali (2011) and also a special documentary on the Chennai Metro Rail project and history of GANGA for 2012 Deepavali (podhigai) Presented "HASYAM" in carnatic music for Chennai Music Forum during 2012 Isai Vizha. (alongwith Shri Neelu and Asthika Samajam Narasimhan)
· Presented a two hour programme on Lalgudi Jayaraman in 2013 Isai Vizha (Srinivasa Sastry Hall, Mylapore, Chenai) with a special Audio Visual presentation.
· Scripted “Isaith Therin Vadam Pidiththor” a 13 week serial on tamil composers---for Podhigai-Chennai Doordarshan Kendra that was telecast from September 2014.
· Had done the script work for “Kurai Ondrum Illai” a 82 week long serial for Chennai Doordarshan to commemorate the centenary of Bharat Ratna Dr. M.S.Subbulakshmi.
· Presently doing the script work for D.K.Pattammal centenary for Podhigai T.V.