A little over a decade ago, Oscar-winner AR Rahman had said at an album launch, “After travelling extensively, when I come back to Chennai, I am often asked why I choose to live here? The reason is simple: because my house is here and Ganesh and Kumaresh are here.” The year was 2007 and Rahman was talking about his Mylapore neighbours and violinists Ganesh and Kumaresh. This was when the world was just about getting acquainted with the violin duo, who stormed the north Indian music scene (Kanpur and Delhi) as child prodigies, followed by their name being thrown around at the Delhi Marghazi Season. Years later, they are known to be two of the finest violinists in the country.
On Monday, the brothers were named the joint winners of the Sangeet Natak Akademi award. “It is always special when the nation recognises you for the kind of work you have done with a prestigious award like that. Art unites people. In that journey, when there is recognition, it is a lot of encouragement to keep doing what we are doing,” said Kumaresh over the phone from Chennai.
Born in Kanpur and raised in Delhi, Mumbai and later in Chennai, the duo began learning the techniques of Carnatic violin from their father, TS Rajagopalan. Despite their training in Carnatic classical, they have comfortably collaborated with Hindustani classical musicians including Ut Zakir Hussain and a slew of western classical musicians including saxophone player George Brooks. But their deep-rooted training and technique in Carnatic classical music has turned them into significant musicians for the connoisseurs and the uninitiated.
Among the 44 artistes announced on Monday as winners in the field of music, dance, theatre, folk music and overall contribution in the performing arts, were Gwalior gharana vocalist and principal of Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, Delhi, Madhup Mudgal, Pandit Mani Prasad of the Kirana gharana, Carnatic vocalist Alamelu Mani, who is playback singer Hariharan’s mother, and Carnatic vocalist Malladi Suribabu. Instrumentalists who made it to the list include Tejendra Narayan Majumdar (sarod) and Tarun Bhattacharya (santoor).
An interesting name in the list is that of singer Suresh Wadkar, still remembered for his songs in the Kamal Haasan and Sridevi-starrer Sadma. It is not often that a name from Bollywood makes it to the coveted list by the Akademi. But Wadkar’s contribution goes beyond Bollywood. In the last two decades, he has done classical concerts and taught Indian classical music to a host of students at his academy in Mumbai.
This year’s dance winners are Radha Sridhar (Bharatanatyam), duo Ishira and Maulik Shah (Kathak), Akham Lakshmi Devi (Manipuri), Pasumurthy Ramalinga Sastry (Kuchipudi) and Surupa Sen (Odissi), among others. In the theatre category, actors Teekam Joshi, Swapan Nandy (mime), playwright Rajiv Naik and director S Raghunandana won the award.
The prestigious fellowship of the Akademi (Akademi Ratna), known to be a rare honour, went to tabla maestro Ut Zakir Hussain, dance exponent Sonal Mansingh, Sattriya exponent Jatin Goswami and Bharatanatyam exponent and Director of Sri Rajarajeswari Bharatha Natya Kala Mandir, K Kalyanasundaram Pillai. The awards will be conferred by the President of India at a special ceremony.